The old ones, the new ones, lost farms, invasive (but strangely beautiful) lupines on old farmland on old dunes, old fence lines of social power, new power lines of social relativity, the sea at your side, the mountains at your back, isn’t it great to be in a place where nothing is forgotten and nothing need be spoken of because it can be relied upon in the midnight sun?
Let’s not break the spell.
This image from North Iceland haunts me. This was once a prosperous farm, as the driftwood fence shows. In a country without wood, to have rights to pick up Siberian wood from the beach was enough to make a farm pay. Now they’re inexpensive replacements for more expensive metal posts, and not a cash item.
Speaking of economy, look at the tun, or house field in the centre of the image. It would have been manured with the manure from the winter sheep barn… just as far as a man could carry it with his strength. The point is, that was economy: this concentration of the energy of the land in such a way that it gave forth more richness in the year to come. This principle was applied after the Second World War, when the country embraced foreign modernity to maintain the old economy. In this case, the fuel tank, and a tractor that went with it, looked like a path to a bright future. Maybe it was for Reykjavik, but after 1,000 years no one lives here anymore. It’s still farmed, as a hayfield. The main field, the tun so to speak, is up against the ridge on the upper right of the image, bright green and fertilized with nitrogen fertilizer: an industrial product, that must be paid for with cash the land can barely spare. That’s where the edge of maintaining Iceland by bringing in foreign technology has lead now. Without it, there’d be no economy, yet if it had always been this way, there’d be no Iceland. This has always been Iceland’s bind. Gunnar Gunnarsons’s attempt to solve it by bringing modern German farming to the Fljótsdalur in 1939 lasted only a couple years, before he had to give it up. In fact, this might just be a universal human bind: one looks for permanency and must accept transience, yet the dream of permanency continues to exert its pull.
What it says is that we are haunted by the world as much as we haunt it.
It’s not about fences, see.
Everything is a sheep trail. That’s because sheep own Iceland.
Right, as for fences. The same goes for gates. Best to leave weird foreign stuff like that open, so that what wants to go through can go through.
You never know.
Oh, wait, yes you do.
All farming is hard.
Abandoned Farm, Borgarfjörður Eystri
Everywhere. Here’s a farm in Wales.
Hayfield, Y Fron, Wales
And a farm in Canada.
New Orchard, Vernon, Canada
I think the last is the most beautiful. Team? What do you think?
Hmmm. It’s hard to say if they agree or not. Closer?
Ah. The silent type.