Everyday Life in Norway: These Norwegians are Always Up to Something…

When I began the evening classes for our required 50 hours of samfunnskunnskap (Norwegian tongue-twister for Social Studies/Civics class) two years ago with my fellow blogger and favorite partner in crime here in Haugesund, ((btw, you should check out her blog, Life n’ Whatnot, but not until you are finished reading this first)) I thought our teacher, Keren, was joking. Or at least exaggerating a bit. It turns out that she really wasn’t…

One evening, while learning about how all things nabolaget (the neighborhood) usually function here in Norway–i.e. how to establish relationships with/handle problematic neighbors, what days and hours are acceptable to use your electrical yard tools without alienating your new neighbors, and the importance of doing your share in the dugnad (the mandatory, annual freshening up of the ‘hood)–Keren explained that Norwegians are notorious for pretty much working year round on improving their houses or their yards in some way or another, with the exception of taking the usual breaks for traveling to the mountains to ski, or south to ‘syden’. (For the definition of what ‘syden’ is, click here: https://takkfortipset.com/2015/10/06/norwegianisms/.) I laughed quietly to myself, raised my eyebrows and did a slight eye-roll and thought, “Yeah, ok lady… Who in their RIGHT mind would enjoy spending that much time working in their yard, repainting their house/fence/garage for the 100th time, building a garage or outdoor patio, or remodeling their kitchen or bath? And on a fairly scheduled rotation?!”

Apparently, lots of them do.

Like my husband.

And our neighbors. On both sides.

Until May of this year, I didn’t really let our eyesore of an overgrown, weed infested yard bother me too terribly much. Now, thanks to these neighbors, I am really beginning the loathe it. They made some truly astonishing Architectural Digest type transformations in both their landscaping and outdoor building this year, and ever since then, it’s slowly been giving me a complex.

Now when I speak of our overgrown, weed infested yard, you need to understand this: I’m not talking about a few stray weeds popping up here and there which would make one believe that the owners have been away on vacation all summer long. I’m talking about weeds that look like the owners have been away on vacation since 1985. Plus, whoever lived here before had obviously skipped the feng shui landscaping and maintenance class for new homeowners. There’s no rhyme or reason to it. At all.

Ohhhhh my head hurts just looking at this.

Ohhhhh my head hurts just looking at this.

I'll use this as a good 'before' reference photo!

I’ll use this as a good ‘before’ reference photo!

Whereas this particular type of hot mess would certainly have earned us some kind of HOA citation delivered via certified mail in the States, luckily no one has said anything about it here. Well, at least not to our faces. Yet. Everywhere you look, there are lovingly, well-manicured lawns in our neighborhood, which are ironically, easily viewed from our living room windows. These hardworking people who make our neighborhood a true pleasure to drive through are probably just the sweetest people you could ever wish to meet, but I imagine (often–because I am that paranoid sometimes!) while out on their daily post-dinner walks, that they chuck a thumb in our direction and say to each other, “Hmmmph. You would think that after living in that house for 2.5 years, that they would have done SOMETHING to clean up that yard! I mean really, she’s not working a full time job–what the heck is she doing with all of her time anyway??”

I gotta tell you, my husband wonders that exact same thing every once in awhile.

Now, if this situation could have been solved with a mere lawnmower, believe me honey, I would have done that a looooooooooong time ago..but we live on a decently sized hill with an impressive downward slope, which makes up about 90% of our yard. So as you can see, mowing is not an option because of the amount of time alone that it would take to finish the job. Also, a lawnmower of any kind is really just out of the question due to the deep-and deceptive-incline. Safety first, and all that. Also, the fact that you would need about a GAJILLION miles worth of extension cords in order to reach every corner of our yard with our lawnmower is way beyond ridiculous.

A good example of ‘safety first’ when it comes to the slope in our yard (and yes, I am speaking from experience): what would appear to be a nice, firm piece of solid, grass-covered ground to the normal human eye, is, in stark reality, a soft, spongy moss and weed covered dip that precedes the hidden tree stump that the previous owners neglected to remove 15 years ago. I don’t know about you, but images of me losing a limb to a lawnmower instantly spring to mind..and that’s just one of the reasons why I wouldn’t dream of mowing our lawn. 

At this rate, I’m so overwhelmed by the thought of everything that has to be done to this yard to get it in decent shape, that I am seriously contemplating marking things with a big, fat, red X, then turning my bonus-son and husband loose with a chain saw. So far, I’ve been tackling this monster solo, with a little help now and then from my sweet in-laws. But enough is enough, and now it’s time to call in the troops.

The motivation for our rotation begins, but not because we wanted it to….

Our neighbors to the north are an ambitious, energetic young couple with two little ones under the age of 5 years. Our houses lie close enough for us to see down into their kitchen from one of our bathrooms, but not too close that we can see if their modern Scandinavian style kitchen is absolutely spotless (it always is), or what they are cooking for dinner. (Or what they are wearing/not wearing for that matter. Don’t ask.) Late this spring, they began clearing the sloping section of their yard of all trees, dead or dying low ground-cover type bushes, etc.. Even before they started on this project, their yard looked 1,000 times better than ours did. I felt a sort of camaraderie with them before they starting to clean up their side of the slope, and my levels of guilt were much lower.

It took many months of him clearing earth and stone, removing tree stumps, meticulously building up and leveling off the areas that he’d cleared, laying the new grass, strategically setting massive blocks of stone and large, perfectly round rocks in their places, building a miniature climbing wall for their kids, making a set of little wooden steps which lead up to the trampoline that now sits on the beautiful green grass…but their yard is now the dream of every little kid in our neighborhood.

Remember that complex that I was talking about?

Our neighbors on our south side just happen to be my doctor, her husband and their two cute-as-a-little-Norwegian-button kids. They informed us around February of this year that they would be beginning the preparations for building a garage. Ok, no problem. I can handle that. At least they won’t be doing any landscaping on their side of the slope! My level of yard guilt is still fairly balanced out. I was pretty optimistic and had begun to lay out the plan of attack for our yard. If we took it one section at a time, it’ll be doable, but it would definitely take a lot longer than it took our neighbors to the north. But at least I wouldn’t become discouraged by conquering it this way, and besides, it wasn’t like we had to hurry up and get it done..the progress our neighbors to the south had with their garage being built was not giving me any reason to feel uneasy. Not at all…

Once the area had been prepped for the garage and the foundation was laid, they told us that they would also be having a large L-shaped patio built, the yard leveled for a place so the kids could play, and of course, there would be landscaping.

Now, their patio and yard are so absolutely perfect that our 7 year old daughter spends the majority of her time playing over there. I can’t say that I blame her, though. I want to spend the majority of my time over in their yard, too.

I swear, I am stuck in landscape purgatory.

On an optimistic note, purgatory is getting a bit of a facelift tomorrow. And we (yes, WE) have begun planning our own renovation and building projects for our home and yard for next year. Needless to say, I am beyond excited. I won’t say what they are just yet, but I’ll be sure to post photos of the progress as it happens!

Our time for maintenance rotation has finally come. I am becoming one of those people who falls into the routine of always having something to improve or work on around the house.

And it feels good!

2 responses to “Everyday Life in Norway: These Norwegians are Always Up to Something…

  1. Oddly enough I haven’t noticed a marked difference between Norway and Canada when it comes to renovations, building and landscaping. Could be a regional thing. And having seen the layout of your yard I don’t envy the job you have ahead of you. Lykke til!

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  2. I think that may be due to a lack of time for Americans, actually. With their work schedules (even mine was crazy when the 2 hour commute was factored into it), many just don’t have the time to do the yard work or renovations, so they hire it out and are done with it. The ones who can’t afford to hire it out usually do what they can when they can, and since vacation time is a priceless commodity, I knew of some folks who used that time to stay home to do the stuff that needed to be done.

    And I’m still not quite sure why siding for houses hasn’t caught on here in Norway yet: that would save a LOT of time with painting or replacing wooden panels on the houses! Time=Money! 😉

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