Dear Family and Friends,
I arrived in Norway exactly one month ago and have quickly been adopting to my new life as a Watson Fellow and cheese nomad. I miss you very much but my homesickness is abated by my new adventures and by my drive to understand dairy production around the world.
I wanted to share my first blog post much earlier but I have been through a whirlwind of farm visits. (By “whirlwind,” I mean that I have traveled hundreds of miles by train, bus, car, and bike and slept in 9 different homes over the past 4 weeks.)
So it is with relief that I finally have some time to recharge and reflect on my experiences. On the whole, I am very content. Since my arrival in Oslo, I have explored local cheese shops, experienced first-hand the Norwegian tradition of moving livestock to summer farms, tried out new cheese-making techniques, made the cheese I set out to find, “Brunost,” and discovered some other great cheese along the way. I have also observed Norwegian cooperative farming in action, talked in-depth with members of Norsk Gardsost (a Norwegian Dairy Association), learned a great deal about the unique challenges of farming in this climate, and met many, truly wonderful people.
When I am not directly working on my Watson project, I have greatly enjoyed exploring other facets of local culture and tradition. In Oslo, I visited the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History and the Royal Palace. In Valdres, I attended a community solstice festival and went on some beautiful hikes. In Hokksund, my hosts brought me to the silver mines, the Kongsberg Jazz Festival, and their favorite swimming spots. In Lesja, I camped with new friends at their summer farm in the mountains, learned about reindeer hunting, and baked bread. I have also been studying Norwegian daily and going for long runs to better appreciate the amazing landscape around me.
Sitting here in a café along the Sognefjord (Norway’s longest fjord), just a short walk from my new home at Sogn Jord-og Hagebruksskule (the only Organic Agricultural School in Norway), I almost cannot believe that all this is real. What started as a dream over a year ago– to immerse myself in the lives of artisanal cheesemakers around the world, to build connections across farming communities, and to explore ways to strengthen local food systems– is now in front of me. As difficult as it has been to pack up my bag and move to a new home every week, I am so grateful for the opportunity to meet farmers and study cheese production all across this country.
My access to the internet has thus far been inconsistent. I hope, however, to henceforth make weekly or bi-monthly blog posts. After encouragement from the wonderful Avdem family (week no. 3 hosts), I also just created an instagram account: linneaburnham9, if you would like to see more photos that way.
If you have any questions or suggestions for my journey or my blog, I would love to hear from you. I tried to keep this post down to the highlights even though my first journal is now full of longer stories and new ideas I’ve encountered. I’d love to hear from you all anyway. It is you, my family and friends, that continually inspire me, encourage me, and have helped make this year possible.
Lots of love to you all,