"I romanticize this life all the time"

With Pippimentality, a passion for animals and nature and a hefty dose of countryside romance, 32-year-old Isabell Lundberg takes on life on a 19th century farm in Skråmträsk.
- It's my passion to live like this. It's fun to visit friends who live in the city, but there's a missing piece of the puzzle when I can't be here," says Isabell.

Ask any German - Skråmträsk, about 20 minutes west of Skellefteå - feels like the epitome of a rural idyll. With a red village school, a country store and a sparkling lake in the middle of the village.

From the road we see Isabells farm, far up the hill. It is almost ridiculously beautiful there on the hill. With a view of the lake and with rolling fields and forest in the background. Neither Pettson, Findus nor Emil in Lönneberga would have felt particularly out of place in this environment.

- I didn't think I would appreciate the tranquillity so much. But that's probably what I fell for. To open the door and be greeted by nature is absolutely incredible," says Isabell.

She greets you in the kitchen of the white log house from 1864. Here on the farm there are, in Isabell's own words, "a bunch" of houses and outbuildings.

- "We have a fairly large barn with stables, a baker's cottage, a log cabin and we've built a chicken coop with the same look. And we have an old lodge. And a root cellar. And the little red house next door, Lilltorpet.

Isabell i huset.

Isabell lives here with her husband Fredrik and children Lo and Svante. Plus a bunch of chickens, Knut the cat, the rabbits Aska, Hoppsan and Nini Kanini. And of course the horses Fapri, a Shetland pony, and Buse, an Aegidienberger. Isabell grew up in the village of Åbyn outside Burträsk, a few miles from here. She met Fredrik, who was born in Skråmträsk, in secondary school.

- "When we graduated, we had the opportunity to rent this farm. It was in Fredrik's family and there was no one living here then. We lived in Lilltorpet at the time. I think we only intended to live here for a year or so and then move somewhere to study or something. But we liked it so much," she says.

It was the start of a long renovation journey. The white farmhouse had been empty since the 1960s and lacked both sewage and electricity.

- "It was probably very lucky that we didn't know what we were getting into. We had a bit of Pippimentality, "we've never tried this, so we'll manage". And we were strongly encouraged by our dads, who like to tinker and fix things. But oh how long it took," says Isabell.

After replacing the roof, demolishing the joists and decking, insulation, a new bathroom and kitchen and a lot of other fixes, the house was finally ready to move into in the fall of 2019.

- "Renovation didn't come naturally, but you learn," Isabell says.

Today, she portrays life on the farm on Instagram and in the blog Livet på Backen. In the house, modern interiors are mixed with tiled stoves, old details and flea market finds.

- "We don't follow trends, but if we fall for a piece of furniture, we leave it where it is. We have a lot of old dressers and cabinets. I love going to flea markets, so there are a lot of second-hand finds.

Their favorite piece of furniture is a 100-year-old kitchen sofa that they inherited from Fredrik's grandmother. Which is also appreciated by the cat, who likes to take his naps right there. What's worse is the time Isabell and Fredrik have to rest on the sofa cover.

Huset på backen.

With two full-time jobs - Isabell is a development engineer at mining company Boliden's sustainability staff and Fredrik works at Holmen's sawmill in Bygdsiljum - plus the children and horses on the farm, the days are not exactly difficult to fill. Isabell also has a side job as a digital creator and blogger. She and Fredrik usually get up at 5:30 in the morning and wake the children. Then Isabell goes out to the stables and checks on the horses and chickens. Then off to preschool and work.

- We put our daily lives together. Fredrik works shifts. When we get home it's the dinner circus. Then I usually go out to the stables again after the children have fallen asleep. Last of all, I sit down and post on Instagram from the tack room, the sofa or the children's bedroom," she says.

Weekends are quieter with more time for projects and antics.

- "On weekends we usually have a long breakfast. We love to come up with some kind of project. Right now we are putting beadboard in the stairs where we previously had the wood. Often there is something to be fixed. After lunch we often go out with the scooter, or with our pony. Or meet friends. It's a fairly quiet life, but things happen," she says.

And online readers often get to follow along. The blog was first intended as a kind of renovation diary.

- But I've realized that it's a declaration of love for the countryside. I romanticize this life all the time. I really see the beauty of watching the seasons change and being close to animals and nature every day. Even if there are challenges with shoveling and fixing. It's about showing what the countryside offers," she says.

And the response in the digital channels gives a lot back.

-"I still think it's so incredibly fun to blog. To be able to be creative. And I get showered with love every day! 99.5% of it is positive comments and greetings. I have also received nice messages from people who have been inspired by us to move to the countryside. It feels amazing.

If you dream of living in the country, it's a good idea to go out and talk to people, says Isabell.

- "It's often someone who knows someone who has a house that you can rent to try out or possibly consider selling. Houses don't always come onto the market. And it's just a matter of trying! If you feel a longing for the countryside, go for it. It's no more difficult than that. You may change your mind and change it again!

She also appreciates the proximity to the city with all the opportunities it offers.

- "There has been a huge change here in the last five years. When I was in high school, there was perhaps more of a longing to leave. But now you just feel: Wow, what a city to live near! I often feel a sense of pride when people I know from the south come to visit. There's almost always something new to try," she says.

Isabell highlights the library, Sara cultural center and the city's restaurants as three highlights of the city.

- And the municipality is big. There are many wonderful excursion destinations around. Like Bjuröklubb or Svedjan's bakery.

But probably strongest of all is her love for the village she lives in. Before we leave Isabell in the kitchen at Backen, we get a declaration of love for Skråmträsk.

- It's a unique village. It never gets stuck here. We have great neighbors. We are surrounded by Fredrik's family. The neighbor helps us to bale our hay bales and we get a horse guard from the neighbor girl. There is a shop, a shoe shop, a café and a swimming area. We can saw our own boards in a sawmill. There is enormous strength in wanting to help each other, and it feels so good that my children can grow up here," she says.

Text: Olov Antonsson

Photo: Isabell Lundberg