This winter I visited the family farm for Christmas in Stenbo, Sweden. Located only three degrees below the Arctic Circle, the farm gets about 5 hrs of daylight during this time of year.
We got up around 5:30 AM everyday to catch the sunrise, something I need to do more! The sunrise on this day was particularly spectacular, painting the sky with delicate yellow, pink, and blue shades that seemed quite unreal.
Around dawn, the moon would shine surprisingly bright and we were able to walk around the edge of the lake without flashlights before sunrise.
Despite its scarcity, the light in Stenbo was amazingly beautiful and gave the sky some exquisite colors! These skies made taking pictures an absolute blast! In addition to giving great lighting, the skies were vivid backdrops of color that stood in stark contrast to the gray snowy ground.
Over the first couple days, ice slowly grew on the lake, eventually being thick enough to walk and skate on! We used a special tool (a glorified stick tipped with a small blade) to cut small holes in the ice to measure the thickness. Despite this, the ice would often crack and shift beneath us as we skated with a deep crunching sound and high-pitched pinging noises as the cracks spread through the lake ice (see this video).
When we got tired from skating around the lake, we decided to try and build an ice igloo. Equipped with only a small hand axe and a weird ice tool, the process of cutting lake ice, dragging it out, cutting it into smaller “bricks”, assembling the igloo, and letting it freeze back together took us about 2 days. If you do this, bring a saw (and some ice tongs)!
When we weren’t skating and there was still sunlight, we went on a couple walks through the forest. This was taken right before my dad fell through the ice (oops)!
We also visited some of the abandoned cabins in the forest. Spooky! This one was almost completely overgrown, with its roof caved in on one side and only a few traces of its last inhabitants.
At the end of our trip, it came time to say goodbye to my grandpa Åke. It’s remarkable how refreshing it can be to live like him, on a relatively remote farm in the middle of northern Sweden, and a good reminder of how little you need to be truly happy!