Little House in Telemark

Tomorrow we are buying a house. Or, more specifically, we are getting the house keys.

Hold on, you say – didn’t you just move, and then go silent for a few months?  As things often (usually) go with a long-distance relocation, we moved, we unpacked, and that is when life happened, and I had no time to blog for several months.  Because when you are relocating to a set of different circumstances (to another country, to another type of landscape, or climate, rural-to-urban, or the reverse), there are always unexpected consequences.

Meet Kitty. She’s the car. The other good-looking lady is my mother-in-law, Ingrid.

So, first we ended up hurriedly buying a car despite having lived without one for many years (T has never owned one before, and I haven’t since leaving USA), because we lived in urban areas well-supplied with public transport.  And now we have moved to the sort of place where some of our neighbors take their tractor to shop on a weekend (or open-bed truck, though probably not the harvesting combine as they aren’t very good on a road).  There is a farm down the hill from where we live – as in, an actual functioning smallhold with wheat fields, tree-planted alley drives, and an ancient gate (I should take a picture of it – it’s not the same gate as in the previous post, it’s older). They wheat harvest is in progress right now, in fact. So we bought a car because it’s helpful to be able to get around the many tiny valleys of Telemark, not all of which have regular public transport due to being remote and tiny, and visit pretty places, which are more or less the entire county of Telemark.  We hadn’t known this when T got the job, but apparently the local area is considered a tourist attraction even for being Norway (not a fjord area, but the tiny-cute-valley landscape, and it’s rather warm here, at least by Scandinavian standards).  Here’s a gratuitous photo of another view for you.

Bø i Telemark
Bø i Telemark, about 3 minutes’ walk from our rental apartment.

And then it occurred to us that no matter how we wiggle our stuff around, the apartment is a bit too small to fit all our things (though I do not put it down – it would have been awesome 20 years ago when we were students and had less books/cookware/large wool winter coats), and maybe we should buy a house.  And since it was the house-buying season (summer! pretty and warm! come see houses and gardens!), and we had a car so we could easily drive around, we went looking.  And found one we really liked.  So we did.

Say hello to the Little House in Telemark.

The new (well, rather used, but new to us) house!

The house isn’t actually ours yet – we get the keys to it on Friday (tomorrow), but the contract is written, the bank has forwarded the money to the current owner, and the current owner (who is a lovely lady originally from the Netherlands) has even permitted us to start outside renovations (more on this below, too), because winter is coming (it does every year in these parts, pretty much on schedule), and outdoor renovations are not something which is good to do when the temperatures plummet below zero.  The house comes with 1240m^2 of land, some of which is made into a pretty front and back garden, part of which is a piece of local forest biome (complete with a couple of young pines and a patch of wild blueberries under them!!!), and some of which is entirely unmaintained, and currently contains 2-meter-tall thicket of (rather nice and vigorously fruiting) raspberry canes and bracken ferns.  I am not kidding about the two meters.  It reaches well and easily above my head, and I think above T’s, too, so it’s no shorter than 1.8m.  Another part of land belonging to the house is a piece of sunny meadow with wildflowers and tall grass on the slope between the house and the main road, which I think will be a great place to put a fruit tree or two.

The house itself is wood on a leka block foundation.  It was built in 1983, and has been maintained in very decent condition.  However, the lady who owned it for most but not all of its lifetime (I can’t blame her for some of the really bad garden decisions which I will talk about later on – they were done by the original owner of the house) got rather old (as do we all eventually), and had neither desire to do renovations, nor the strength to go into single combat with the hedges.  The outdoor renovations which we are doing include things that were made well 35 years ago, but have naturally weathered, such as the house bargeboards (I actually learned this new word for a part of a house when trying to figure out which part of the roof inspector noted as needing replacement – a bargeboard is a board that protects edges of roof timbers from the elements), and the entirety of the balcony that runs across the entire back of the building above the ground floor.  The wood used to build the house in the 80s wasn’t the same as modern-treated lumber used today, and after three-plus decades of exposure to sun, wind, and water, the parts of it which were most exposed (balcony and bargeboards) have dried and cracked. But, I digress into technicalities.

The house is beautiful.  It was designed in the 1970s, and apparently the architectural plan/builder’s execution of it (Block Watne 99) was the most popular house plan built in Norway for about two decades – which makes sense because it has a beautiful exterior that looks more complex than it actually is (roof plan is actually very simple, which is good for maintenance, and which is more evident when viewed from the rear), and the sort of floor plan which fits excellently well into slopes (and most of Norway is more or less steep slopes).  As luck would have it, it was potentially not the most popular house built in the area, so it doesn’t have a gazillion neighbors looking exactly the same, which makes us even happier.  The floor plan is split-level:  you enter at level 1.5 containing an entry hall, bathroom, and laundry room, and go one flight of stairs down to level 1 where the bedrooms and main bathroom are situated, and one up to level 2 containing the kitchen and the huge, 48 m^2 L-shaped living room with a wall of windows looking out over the view.  Two more flights of stairs up from the living room level there is a full loft (with its own landing and door, but as yet unfinished), and half a flight of stairs down from level 1, there is a cellar which is fully submerged underground and is, in fact, located right under the entryway area.  All of this is tied together by a large solid-pine stairwell, and the house, since it sits in the slope, has a much taller rear elevation than the facade, so it towers gloriously above the back garden. I will be posting more photos (before-and-after the renovations) after we actually have the keys! In the meantime, here’s another photo of yet another pretty lake in the area, which we took when driving around this summer.

Hjartsjå, a lake in the vicinity of Seljord

I can’t promise that I will write more regularly now, because well, the whole moving-and-then-moving-again thing is guaranteed to make life busy enough that there is little time to blog, but I will try to update here from time to time, in-between the bouts of packing, unpacking, explaining to the kitchen contractor exactly what I want in terms of steel counter (yes I want the sink to be integral in the steel countertop with no seams, please, because what if I want to cut up a whole goose, or dump 5kg of bread dough on it?), and trying to not run over budget with renovations. The dread of over-the-budget situation is something which is currently unfounded, but I do hope it will help keep me in line.

Snowball Viburnum
A pretty picture of Snowball Viburnum from earlier this year.

So, tomorrow we get a house.  Wish us luck.


9 thoughts on “Little House in Telemark

  1. Hi Veronika. Looks like you have no shortage of things to do for the next 20-30 years. I can tell you live in the far north because your satellite dish points sideways, not up. Congratulations and good luck!

    PS / Quince jam season starts here in 6 weeks.

    1. Hey Ed!

      Thank you for the good-luck wishes! I hadn’t even thought about the dish (we are going to remove it since we don’t do TV much, and if we did, we’d get fiber-optic), but you are right – we are just under 2° latitude South of Anchorage, Alaska, so North of most of populated areas of Canada.

      I am already mentally mapping out garden workload (and which parts of it may need to be outsourced to Large Men with Chainsaws and a Bulldozer™), and making a list of garden tools I know the house lacks (we bought it complete with most of the tools, and some really nice furniture). A full inventory will be taken tomorrow evening. You are right, it’ll take years to get the garden up to my standard.

      But, I do already know where the quince bushes will go – near the street side of the sunny meadow piece, where I can get to them easily, and their flowers will look glorious. There is no traffic to speak of on the ‘main’ street (road winding up the slope from the centre of the village) and there are just us and 2 neighbors on our side street (path, actually, as it’s termed), so I don’t have to worry about car fumes on fruit. I am also considering an actual Cydonia tree – we have moved several climate zones warmer (You’d be surprised – there are fruiting peach and apricot trees here! Yay for Gulf Stream!), and I know they do grow and fruit fine in Stockholm (which is colder than here).

      Oh and Norway = fish and seafood and pork and lamb paradise (beef is expensive and imported). I have to write about the SEAFOOD! Actually, scratch what I wrote above above not having time to blog – I just realized how MUCH I have to write about, so time will be found!

      1. I predict you’ll be “rushing the spring” around the first of March next year, having accumulated a winter’s worth of ideas.

      2. I suspect that I will be starting flats of seeds with no idea where to put half of them, and yelling at the sun to hurry up, yes. Our last frost date is around mid-April, so…

        I have gotten some ideas of where to put a few things (cherry tomatoes flanking the entrance string-trained against the wall, heliotropes in pots on balcony), but I am not sure I’ll be able to prepare a proper lasagna raised bed before winter falls. We’ll see – depends on the renovation budget, and whether I’ll be able to afford Large Men with Chainsaws™ this autumn, or not!

  2. Congratulations on you purchase. Wishing you many happy years in your new house in telemark. Looks beautiful.

    Vegetable patch and flower garden will not be far away. xx

    1. Thank you, and we very much hope so!

      As to flower garden and some vegetable beds, that’ll take a bit of work, but we certainly have the space for those! :D

  3. So good to see you post again & relieved that the silence was for good reasons, not sad or scary ones…looking forward to hearing about your adventures as a homeowner! Having purchased a number of not-new houses over the years, I appreciate how exciting the possibilities are. Best wishes and best of luck, too.

    1. Hi, and thank you!

      Also, thank you for the concern – it’s very sweet, and appreciated! And yes, life just happened to get terribly busy, because old houses are lovely in some ways (great floor plan, beautiful architecture), and less in other ways that need fixing!

      I will try to get back to writing more regularly, and will post the promised pictures of the house with commentary soon – the ‘before’ photos, obviously, since the renovations have just started!

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