Text and pictures by Peter Tallberg & Linnea Rundgren Himmelsbjerggården, Denmark
“What is permaculture to you?”
I was asked to answer this question by Cathrine Dolleris during the opening circle of the festival. We had travelled together to the festival from her lovely home and LAND center on Orø. My partner, Linnea, and I spent a couple nights there, catching the annual viking market, which set a nice tone for our Danish journey and a good foundation for a dive into the world of self-sufficiency.
Permaculture is a design tool which helps me to understand the different dimensions of a site or bioregion. As a landscape architect permaculture allows me to interact and play with an ecosystem and its services in order to create abundance and harmony. But I was not the only one to answer this question out loud, and many complementive answers were heard. The festival took place during the hottest weekend of the decade, gathering a diverse and colourful crowd from all around the Nordics, as well as a handful from the Baltics, and the Americas. We greeted each other by organizing into a rough map of where we came from. Naturally there were many Danes, as we were deep in the Danish hinterlands, but also plenty of Norwegians. The other Nordic countries only had a couple of representatives. Linnea and I felt quite lonely over in the Swedish/Finnish corner of the lawn.
Previously the festival was held in Norway in 2018, Iceland in 2017, Finland in 2016, Sweden in 2015, and again Denmark in 2014. For Linnea this year was her first, whilst I had partaken in Finland and Iceland.
Even though the amount of festival attendants initially overwhelmed the kitchen, Hjerterum, the food was certainly nutritional and prepared with love. Some ingredients were grown on site, partially foraged by frollicking children, the rest was surplus from different stores. The concept of dumpster diving has become a commonly accepted phenomena, as the general awareness of food waste has grown. Minimizing food waste is one of the largest positive impacts on holistic resource management that we as individuals, consumers and corporations can make with very little effort. Fortunately some stores and restaurants agree to hand the leftovers over to those who wish to consume it without going via a dumpster. This naturally preserves the self-esteem of those who opt to rather consume leftovers, than allow them to get spoiled in a bin.
Bees were an ever present element. Danish wild bees, bee hotels and bee food as a condiment for the breakfast porridge. Their slightly less charming cousins, the wasp, made an appearance from time to time, causing a degree of mayhem which resulted in a few casualties. Although we were very considerate to their rights of existence, I happened to stroke one without its consent, which ended me with a swollen left hand, still slightly throbbing as I write this article. All human participant survived the event, alas not all buzzing entities were so lucky. Greed is perhaps not only a human behaviour, as wasps, bees and other insects decided to dive into open jars of honey and into hot cups of tea.
Inspiring topics were explored through workshops and lectures, ranging from fermentation and mycology, agro forestry and natural building to life design and Danish Ecovillages. The workshop holders had different levels of expertise and experience, but all burning passionately for their field of interest. Although some activities were cancelled over the weekend, there were still plenty of things to do. Simply enjoying the warm summer, walking in the forest or networking with the other participants easily filled any gap in the schedule. Personally I aimed to have a well rounded experience with some lectures, some workshops, some play, and in the evening dance and music. Admittedly the hot days did provide somewhat of a challenge for daytime lectures, as the classrooms were sweltering hot. As the evenings cooled the air, energy returned and we enjoyed wonderful dinners together, accompanied by lively discussions on the topics of the days lectures.
Each evening had its own musical entertainment, from dreampop/electrica by Electric Ghost, Danish folk/middle age tunes by Virelai, and alt rock/shamanic chants by Triple Fortune. The evenings continued into the dark of night, as the stars came out to play creating an ambient ceiling high above the crackle of the campfire. As the days promised to be packed with action we did not let the cozy evenings drag on for too long. The nights were semi restless as my sleeping mat leaked and the high vibes produced vivid dreams. Fortunately the morning showers were ice cold, which guaranteed to wake up the mind and refreshen the spirit. Chi-gong sessions were held twice daily, for those interested, opening up the energy flows and shedding any stagnation from sitting through lectures or sleeping on roots. It certainly is a good idea to stretch out the muscles in preparation for the engaging day activities and the epic evening ring dance offs.
Himmelbjerget is Denmark’s highest point, standing at 147 metres above sea level. It was formed at the end of the previous ice age by subglacial streams. As the hill is not evenly round on all sides it is considered a false hill by geologists. Nonetheless the view from atop is mesmerizing and exotic in the otherwise flat Danish landscape. At the foot of the hill lies the lake Juelsø, as part of a sequence of multiple lakes.
The place became well known when the Danish poet St. St. Blicher held a gathering here in early August 1839. The 25 meter high tower, designed by architect L.P. Fenger was unveiled in June 1875, in commemoration of King Frederik VII. It bears the inscription: In commemoration of the King – Frederik VII – a friend of the Danish people – the giver of the Constitution2.
In the end, all who remained gathered in the gym hall for a final circle and round of thanks. We held hands, and expressed our gratitude to the organizers, the cooks, the hosts, the place, the volunteers, the spirits, the new bonds, and shared moments. We curled together into a large group hug, toning together and raising the vibrations in unison with our voices. The hall erupted in cheers and laughter, applause and whistles, stomping feet and wide smiles. It all came together, and in the end we seemed almost unable to part ways. Until our merry pumpkin wagons carried us off to new adventures in life, a little wiser, somewhat older, and lots happier.
The world may report this weekend as an alarming display of the climate crises we stand in front of, but for us who participated in the NPF 2019, I believe it will be remembered as a showcase of solutions, a moment of sharing hope, and a chapter of cheerfulness.
- www. himmelbjerget.dk
Tekst og fotos er lavet i forbindelse med Permakultur Danmarks konkurrence om bedste video, fotos og artikel i forbindelsen med festivallen og vinderne er blevet tildelt en halv billet til festivallen for deres smukke bidrag.
Se også Linnea Rundgrens smukke og poetiske video om festivallen: