I have a lot to reflect on and be thankful for this week. So much changes every day, I have endless time to focus and work on projects and the freedom to pivot and evolve constantly. The week started off cold and dreary, with rainstorms that lasted all day and all night. Every day I packed a bag and walked to the Net Factory, where I am installing my algae farm. The Net Factory was a large, abandoned factory that was recently donated to the LungA School (an art program in town). They have begun to remodel the space and turn it into a workspace for the school. As the semester just started, the factory is unused, left half finished and soon to be returned to. In the interim time, while the space still retains its industrial nature, I am using it as an installation space.
I have also spent a large chunk of my week out foraging for new plants and edibles. Unfortunately, due to the rain and snow (that covers a perfect 1/3 of the mountains, with a clearly drawn line where the snow ends and the purple/ochre earth is exposed) the waterfalls are overflowing. New waterfalls appear every day, and old, familiar ones have begun to change course as a result of wind and rain. I now understand how the fjords have adopted such dramatic groves and markings. The other day, as I leaned against the kitchen counter and sipped my coffee, I watched as a waterfall was blown away in the wind: water that came down from a stream was blown into the air rather then falling down the cliff. Unfortunately, all of these extreme forces have washed away the algae that I have been collecting. When I walk in the waterfalls I am almost swept away in the clear water.
Forced to look for other forms of nutrition, I have started exploring the space in-between the waterfalls. I instinctively want to call it the forest, because that is what I know the mountains to be, but that is not the case here. While the fjords are mountianous, the ground is barren, with small plants and short birch and planted evergreen trees that grow around the streams and waterfalls.
On the ground, there are a host of native species that grow only a few inches tall. Most of them are not edible, but if you look closely, you will find small berries that grow next to mushrooms (still frozen from the first frost). There are Arctic Poppies, Cow’s Parsley and Reindeer Moss, all of which are edible. The ground is soft and spongy. With a knife I cut birch leaves and small branches to dry and use in fires.
All of this preparation was in anticipation for our Open Studios. Along with foraged wild flowers and herbs, I served local fish and homemade Icelandic flat bread as part of a food installation.
I dug a pit and prepared it with stones and sand in order to make an outdoor, underground oven for our open studio. After days of rain, the sun came out on Saturday morning. The open studio was lovely, with many visitors from the town who showed a genuine interest in what we were doing and an eagerness to be involved. I was relieved not to have to spend the day maintaining a fire in the rain; the underground pit was easy to do and I had many helpers participate in the installation. We lit a fire of birch, berries, and other dried, foraged herbs and grilled cabbage, rhubarb and leeks before placing salmon in the pit and covering it with dirt and stones. When we pulled the salmon out, it was perfect.
Why an outdoor pit? I continue to be inspired by the natural heat of Myvatn.
Yesterday and today, I volunteered at the community center. I am helping in the kitchen, preparing meals with the town cook, Ragga. She has taught me two bread recipes (Rugbrod/ Rye bread and herbed bread) for my installation at the Net Factory as well as Plokkfisk (Cod stewed with flour, potatoes, seasoning and milk) and lamb sauce.