Work Song

“Nihil Sine Labore.”

This was the motto for the school my dad attended years ago, back when schools actually had mottos and took vast pride in them. It means “nothing without work” for which my dad has certainly lived a life embracing and i have tried to do the same. Believe me when I say that achieving that “dream job” status as a zookeeper took far more than just a little hard work. And now that we are in Norway we are certainly working hard. Our first two Workaway adventures felt very much like elongated holidays but here in Norway we are focusing much more on the work aspect.

There is a choice between farm work and cheese work (no prizes for guessing which one I picked) so whilst Pete feeds the animals, mucks out and does some maintenance jobs I am to be found in the cheesery dressed like an Oompa Loompa and working hard to turn, coat, bath, package and label all the cheeses. On occasion we have both helped to make the cheese too.

I start my day by turning the naked cheeses (cheeses that haven’t been coated yet). I then find the day of the week cheeses within the storage room and proceed to turn and clean them. These cheeses are in the ageing process so only have to be turned once a week so one set of shelves in the storage room are assigned each day of the week. The oldest cheese I have so far come across is a goat cheese made in July 2015 – how amazing is that! And believe me when I say these aged cheeses (I like to call them vintage) taste phenomenal! Imagine a low level fire work show dancing around on your tongue followed by a pleasant creaminess leaving you wanting more.

Next up comes coating. Different types of cheeses get different coloured coating and require 4 coats of their allotted colour followed by a layer of transparent before labelling and heading off to be aged. Painting 4.2kg blocks of cheese is oddly therapeutic but does require speed. I once managed to coat 68 cheeses (in two different colours) in under 30 minutes – my all time best so far.

And finally comes packaging where the cheeses are cut into wedges, vacuum packed and boxed up. Recently with all the Christmas orders this has required an awful lot of gift wrapping which is rather arduous and requires a certain amount of dexterity. In contrast Peter’s work on the farm involves heavy machinery to feed the cows and goats as well as mucking out the horses. He has also taken on an intriguing project – converting an old caravan into a chicken paradise. Unsurprisingly, he has done this with ease and skill and the chicks are happily moved in and exploring their new home.

Once upon a time I would have been surprised and intrigued by Peter being able to achieve something that seemed so complex in my eyes, but not anymore. A great thing about travelling with your other half is what you find out about each other and what you can teach each other. In Spain, for example, I learnt how adept Pete is at log splitting and he taught me the best ways to do it with my puny arms. In every country he has amazed me with skills I had never been able to observe in him before. I have seen him put together a mouse trap out of scraps lying around the house, he is a skilled landscape/gardener and he can look at any problem and come up with rather an ingenious way to fix it. Half the time i just watch him in amazement and say “you’re so clever!”

Our working hours are only around 5 hours a day but with so much to do it feels like longer and it’s all quite regimented. It has to be. The farm has a real feel of a cottage industry but it is run very efficiently to ensure it can continue to do so. But at the end of the day our meals and our rest time in a our lovely little cabin feel very well earned and we still have enough time to explore the local area, such is the genius of the Workaway concept.

After work, if we have the energy we have tried to explore the further reaches of the farm, particularly whilst the snow was still blanketing the ground. The first place we were keen to explore was “the lake” which is part of our hosts land and is far bigger than I ever expected. Back home you would probably call it a reservoir. It’s absolutely stunning (particularly surrounded by snow) and we hope to kayak on it at some point. Venturing in the complete opposite direction through the cow fields we discovered the “cathedral of icicles” as i termed it. On the cliffs the snow was starting to melt slightly creating ginormous stalactites of ice as each drip froze creating a platform for the next one to do the same. Some were as big as us and so spectacular en masse. They reminded me of huge old church organs just waiting to played. Whilst we explored the sun set over the mountains just visible on the mainland creating the most vivid white and pink peak tops I had ever seen. All I could see was a blaze of brightness amid the shadows of the remaining mountains where the sun failed to reach. From our vantage point it was all very distant but still incredibly spectacular and, of course, photos couldn’t do it justice.


I was intrigued to explore a little more of the island of Tysnes itself so eventually Pete and I ventured out once the snow had all been washed away. The rain had been relentless in saturating everything and efficiently turning our whitened wildness wonderland to a mystical land of lush green and iron grey skies. It reminded me hugely of Scotland. We came across a few final icicles clinging on to existence but within the forests themselves everything was a dripping wet kaleidoscope of emerald green. The ground was fantastically spongy and I couldn’t help but bounce around on it like a natural trampoline park. It felt very mythical, like some enchanting jungle which might spawn a creature of legend at any moment.

So despite the work we were still exploring in our own way, embracing the joy we always found in the natural world and marvelling at all the delights on offer. In all honesty we really enjoying being useful and having a true purpose again. When I quite my job I knew I would miss it but I never realised quite how much sense of purpose in life it actually gave me. So in Norway we may have to spend most of our time putting in more hours on the farm but for the sense of the achievement and stunning surroundings it is most definitely worth it. Nothing without work.


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