The long, cold winter in Sweden has shaped the way things are done in all different walks of life.
In Sweden the cows don’t get to enjoy as much outdoor life as they do in the UK; they need protecting from the harsh conditions and spend 8-9 months of the year indoors. They don’t have it all that bad though, as they are on nice straw bedding inside.
As spring arrives, around the first week of May, farms all across the country open their gates to the public to see a spectacle: letting the cows out onto the lush green fields. Families gather to watch.
The events are, mostly, organised and sponsored by Arla, the dairy company. Arla provides cartons of milk and the famous Swedish cinnamon buns for those gathered.
Having arrived back in Sweden just days ago, both Max and I have our body clocks all messed up. 8 o’clock in the evening feels like 5 in the afternoon and 4:30 in the morning feels like 7 am the body is urging us to spring into action. Waking up super early we’ve been keen to enjoy and go out exploring as much as we can on this long weekend we have.
As soon as we heard about the cow release- Kosläpp ( pronounced kooshlaap) -, I knew I wanted to go, take the kids. Afterall, I love all opportunities to give them a glimpse into where our food comes from. Searching on the internet, I found Uppsala had 3 scheduled, one of which was at Lövsta, the research farm of the Swedish Agricultural University (SLU), where Dadonthebrink had visited in his university years. That was where we were headed!
The farm opened at 9, we arrived at 10:30.
We picked up a cinnamon roll and a carton of milk (a large glass of lactose free for the lactose intolerant contingent in the family) and headed to the edge of the fields, where the cows were going to make an appearance.
As we stood by the fence I was explaining something to the kids, when, uncharacteristically, I screamed:
“SHIT this is live!”
– as the soft, delicate skin of my underarm touched the fence and a large dose of electric current ran through my body, giving my knee a jolt and stem of my brain a little fry. People all around looked at me. Apparently, there were “some signs somewhere” about the electric fence being live and later on it was announced.
I grumbled at the fact of having been shocked by the fence and warned newcomers to our little section of the dangers the fence presented, especially those with kids. On the other hand, it is quite refreshing that health and safety and overprotection culture has not taken over the Swedish society as yet.
Or is it the egalitarian aspect of Swedish culture that allowed the fence to stay operational: if the animals can get a shock, so should the humans?
After the brief excitement we finished out cinnamon rolls with milk just in time for the main event.
The cows appeared. Blinded by the bright sunshine, they took their first steps outside with caution. Then, as their eyes adjusted and their hoofs felt the dense green pastures, they started to run, to prance and skip around.
They came is small batches and grouped together, exploring one end of the field and running to the other to taste the grass there.
With large udders swinging as they ran and jumped and hopped, I couldn’t help but cringe as memories of early breastfeeding days of my own flooding back and the pain of milk-filled mammary glands. But these cows were in no pain, they were just happy.
… just as the numerous children around (and most adults too). There was lots of chatter and laughter as the bovine ladies made a spectacle of themselves enjoying the fresh air, sunshine and fresh green grass. It was a delight to watch!
It was all over in about 15-20 minutes: the cows settled down and munched the delicious clumps of grass. Folks started to wander off.
There was no rush though, and we wandered around the farm. The kids got some Arla Koslapp tatoos, some more cinnamon rolls and milk.
We also enjoyed some hot dogs before heading back to our digs. It was such a beautiful day and we really enjoyed taking part in this little Swedish tradition.
What have you been upto on the weekend?