I do believe we have a big winter and spring ahead of us. Here’s our deal: we’ve just bought 17 acres with a decidedly dated small house on it here in Northern Michigan where I grew up. In fact, it’s kind of specifically where I grew up. Like literally the woods that I played in next door to my family’s farm. It wasn’t necessarily in our long term plan to move back to my childhood home, but here we are and for a number of reasons, it’s the best thing for us right now. For one, the drive into the property feels good. That’s kind of a big thing- a house can be changed, the land can not. This land is full of maple trees, a meadow, a small view of the lake and the gorgeous farm next door, and the grandparents are right through the woods- we don’t even have to step foot on pavement. The house, however, was full of 40 year old shag carpeting, faux wood paneling, and bedrooms with walls that you could nearly touch with both outstretched hands. But meh, that’s all fixable. I watch a lot of HGTV, after all, so I’m practically qualified to do this. We bought the place and began putting together plans to renovate it and put on an addition; we started pulling down the interior walls, ripping out the kitchen cabinets, tearing down the weird foam ceiling tiles, and the whole place really opened right up. It was right around then that we realized that we’d bitten off an awful lot, our chewing capabilities came into question.
Here’s my grand idea: Swedish farmhouse-cottage. It’s a thing, I’m sure of it. I’m picturing red with thick white trim, and how lovely it will look with a fresh blanket of bright white snow during the winter months. That’s a big part of it, because winter tends to be a big part of the year around here, so it must be a part of the design for the never-ending season to be tolerable. In Scandinavia, they’ve been making houses like this forever, and if anyone knows how to make winter look gorgeous, it’s them. So we’re finalizing a design now and spending every day we can out there with crow bars and sledge hammers, we’re cobbling together a crew to put it all back together. And to christen the house, we’ve even bought a small tomten statue to watch over us. How’s that for a segue into today’s book?
A tomten (or tomte) is a bit of Scandinavian folklore- he’s a small gnome-like creature with a long white beard and a knit cone cap who acts as a protector to homesteads and farm animals. In The Tomten and the Fox, a farm is watched over by the small tomten, who keeps a hungry fox at bay when he wants to steal a chicken. The tomten is a kindly old thing, though, and understands that the fox is just hungry, not evil, and offers to share his porridge with the fox in exchange for leaving the chickens alone.
The Tomten is a rather lyrical story of the little man making his rounds around the barn and the farm one cold winter night, gently comforting each animal and reminding them all that winter will pass eventually and they will have warm nights once again.
Winter is long and dark and cold, and sometimes the Tomten dreams of summer.
“Winters come and winters go,
Summers come and summers go,
Soon the swallows will be here,” thinks the Tomten.
I do love winter, I especially love cozying up in winter. But I look forward to the warmth and the blue skies of summer, to the birds and the lake. Now I also look forward to next winter which will undoubtedly be long, dark, and cold once again, but we’ll be inside our nice warm Swedish farmhouse-cottage looking at the snow outside.