A New Tradition: Jólabókaflóðið

A New Tradition: Jólabókaflóðið

My wife sent me a text yesterday with a link in it – a thing she only does when she is really excited about something new she has discovered. She’s a bit of a luddite, one of the reasons I love her so much, and so I knew that whatever it was she was wanting me to read online, was going to be interesting.  

Jólabókaflóðið.  She sent me an article about Jólabókaflóðið.

It seems that Jólabókaflóðið (pronounced YO-la-bok-a-flothe) is an Icelandic word meaning something akin to ‘the Christmas book flood.’  It’s a tradition in Iceland that goes back to the days right after the second world war when, because of depression and war era challenges and economic trade restrictions, the one plentiful resource that could be found in Iceland was paper. And because books are made of paper, books quickly became a gift of choice during the holidays. The Icelandic publishing industry began to release all new books in November, a tradition that continues to this day. The yearly publication of a nation wide book catalog, Bókatíðindi, helps everyone there know what’s coming out.  

This seems to have led to a nation of bibliophiles where a good book is the gift of choice and the greatest Christmas pastime is laying in bed, drinking hot chocolate and reading a good book all day long. 

So this year, if yours is a household or readers, what if you chose one day in which all family members agreed to brew a giant caldron of hot chocolate, load up on healthy snacks and spend the entire day reading.  

Find a way to celebrate Jólabókaflóðið together.

You can listen to how Jólabókaflóðið is pronounced at Google Translate.  And you can read a few articles about this amazing Icelandic tradition here, here or here.

And if you need a good book suggestion, check out our family’s top ten lists for youth fiction at Boo Radley Book Reviews.

Image Credit

Wandering Through the Sea of Fog

Wandering Through the Sea of Fog

The wind howls through the trees outside our living room window and the thermometer has dropped to negative two degrees and it’s not done yet. It is winter proper here in South Dakota and we’re experiencing one of our first true snow storms of a fairly mild winter. We watched a movie tonight as a family and now, the girls write letters as I type out a few thoughts bouncing around in my head.

I wonder sometimes what it must have been like to endure winter before electricity, before all the modern conveniences that tempt us to disregard the rhythms of nature. When the sun went down early, the work day came to a close as families headed inside to be together – there were no other options. It was a forced pause that lasted months. Nature forced sabbath rest upon us whether we wanted it or not. Now we rush through winter like the rest of the year, wall to wall busyness with hardly a moment to rest. It seems we have perhaps allowed something important, essential even, to be stolen and we’ve not put up much of a fight. Tonight at least, I’m enjoying the pause.

Casper David Friedrich’s painting, “The Wanderer Above a Sea of Fog” has captured my attention these last few months. I first saw it in book I finished in December, The Landscape of History: How Historians Map the Past. The book was interesting and quite good, but the painting seemed to capture something of how I’ve felt in this particular stage of my life. I’m 48 and I’m in between. My oldest is in his last year of high school. and preparing to launch. I’m at the age where we begin transitioning on from those we love – those both older and younger are moving into new homes – some to heaven where life is as full and good as it can possibly be, and some to new beginnings, to new lives and new dreams and new adventures. It is a time that is filled with joy and sadness, excitement and fear. The mountain climber is both the center of the painting at the top of the world and also utterly insignificant amidst the landscape rolling away in every direction as far as the eye can see. Some aspects of the landscape are clear and distinct; others shrouded in fog. Is it analogous to life? Filled with hope and yet shrouded in mystery. Important and insignificant. What will the next years hold? Where will we be three years from now when both kids have moved out of the house? For them and for us there is the potential and excitement of the next thing and yet that thing is floating just beneath the fog.

How will we live into this unknown future?

In Jonathan Roger’s book, The Bark of the Bog Owl, a mythological retelling of the story of King David, the main character Aiden Errolson, who has just been anointed as the future wilderking, asks the wisened old prophet Bayard the Truthspeaker, “What if I am destined to be the wilderking? How should I live?

The same way you should live your life if you weren’t the wilderking. Live the life that unfolds before you. Love goodness more than you fear evil.

What should we do when the fog comes up around us shrouding the way forward in mystery?

Live the life that unfolds before us. Love life more than we fear evil.

The Shoffice Beside My House

The Shoffice Beside My House

I stole my home office from my daughter. 

I suppose that makes me a bad father but when I found her cleaning out the garden shed beside our garage a few years ago – her plan was a clubhouse – I immediately saw the potential for my own home office,  a quiet repose from the upstairs echoes of our basement.  Because it was a shed and is now an office I’ve taken to calling it the shoffice.  I suppose a more exotic name may be in order but it is a quiet place to work and write and read. I had once dreamed of building a strawbale office, but this was less costly and more expedient.

It has been a step by step journey toward completion.  Each successive year I’ve done a bit more to make it an efficient and comfortable space.  At just over five feet wide and nine feet long, it is not an overly spacious office, but as someone who generally works from home four days a week it has been increasingly the right office.   

I plug the shoffice into the house electricity with an extension cord.  This adequately runs the lights, my computer and a space heater in winter.  I installed a small window air conditioner this past summer making year round work a reality.  I’m still working to finish out the ceiling, the trim work and a standing desk.  Next summer I hope to refurbish the exterior as well and add a small portico over the front door to prevent rain from running down the front door, between the crack and onto the floor.  I’d like to add a window or skylight in order to let in more natural light as well but we’ll see.

The shoffice is the place I go to work.  My family is far too fun to work inside anymore. With two high schoolers studying at home, the distracting temptation to join in the conversations is just too much and so I escape out to my little shoffice beside the garage for much of the day.  It’s my place to get things done.

A Child’s Education And A Poem For Fall

Malachi and Sonora enjoying a cool fall day.
Malachi and Sonora enjoying a cool fall day.

Our two kids have enjoyed the opportunity to be home schooled these past two years.  My wife does a fantastic job and while our homeschooling looks very little like a traditional classroom, the kids are having fun learning.

One of the great things about home schooling is the ability to identify our kids passions, dreams and strengths and then spend more time focusing on them.  There are no bells telling them it is time to move on if they are in the middle of a project or are caught up in the heart of a chapter of a good book.

Malachi is all about story.  He loves stories – both reading them and writing them.  His love for writing has tumbled over into poetry as well.

Poetry is such a great outlet for beginning writers – it’s shorter, grammar matters less and it’s fun.

Today Malachi wrote a poem and I thought I’d share it.  As the leaves begin to fall and the temperatures drop, he naturally chose to write about fall.  Enjoy.



will fall one by one

surely now fall

has come.

Grass will die

and flowers fade.

Green to brown and

crumple down.

The golden corn

swept away.

Winter comes

around the bend.


October 2013

Parker Wagons at Harvest

Parker Wagons at Harvest

The Parker’s metal

sides bulge

like fat pigs

gorged on grain.

The tractor strains

a mighty heave,

wagons ease from soft

end rows.

A dusty country

road welcomes

this swaying


a tractor and two wagons –

green wagons,

green tractor

like spring,

like hope.

Toward home

the tractor goes,

to the auger,

to the bin,

to the thought just

months away

of the planting once



October 2013

Painted Floors

IMG_2646When we moved into Grandma and Grandpa Deckert’s house back in March, we knew we would have a bit of work before us to get the home into the kind of place we would want to live.

We began slowly to make it our own, a not so easy process as in every change there was a bit of nostalgia, a piece of Grandma and Grandpa that would go with it.

We hung onto the living room carpet – circa 1966 – a bit too long though and after pulling it out wished we had removed it and the 47 years of dust and debris and decomposed padding that came up with it.

In keeping with Grandma and Grandpa’s spirit of frugality we opted to do something different with our floors that would save us some money and yet allow us to add a bit of our own Bohemian, earthy sensibilities.

And so we painted them.

The Living room sub-floor painted a deep brown.

The pattern in the hall.

Consuelo used a home-made stencil for this pattern.

The living room floor before the Turkish rugs.

Beautiful sub-floors – who would have thought?

The hall turned out fantastic.  Several coats of paint followed by three coats of an oil based sealer.

The living room will probably need to be redone next summer.  We used two coats of brown (should have done three) and decided to forgo the fumes and use a water based sealer (two coats) instead of the more smelly oil based.

The oil based is so much harder and thicker.  It’s bomb proof.

Our living room brown is already beginning to chip in places though – two active kids do little to help that.

It’s character I guess and will be an easy fix next summer.

Potatoes Galore!

Planting potatoes is hard work.

Digging potatoes is sheer delight!

A few weeks back we began the glorious work with fork and and buckets of bringing up the potato harvest.

It was a good harvest, but we think the year might have been a bit too wet and figure the company who came to spray for dandelions may have hurt our production a bit too with a bit of drift and the yellowed, curled leaves that resulted back in June.

But we had quite the harvest none the less and now have several buckets of potatoes in the basement.

Working together.

Finding the hidden spuds.

Potatoes Galore! (Is ‘galore’ the only adjective in English that follows the noun?)

Digging potatoes with Grandpa – a family affair.

Picking a few apples as well and enjoying fall.

And lots of Butternut Squash.

Patio Pallet Table


I completed my first piece of furniture using a recycled pallet and I am pleased with how it turned out.

I learned a few things about pallets and now have a better understanding of how to work with them and have hopes for completing a set of benches for our back patio as well.

I need to find a few more pallets though.

I did pick up 10 small pallets from the Marion landfill this weekend – all of them solid oak and weathered a bit.

I’m excited to figure out what we can do with them and to find out just how difficult they are to work with – oak is very hard wood after all.

Anyway, here are a few pictures of the table I built.