Pieces of ice that have broken off icebergs drift in the fjord at Kangerluarsorujuk. A white-tailed eagle is busy catching fish, but it is interrupted when our boat approaches and it flies to the shore where it sits on a rocky outcrop. The trip in to Lars and Makkak's sheep station, where you can eat lamb and spend the night, starts at the town of Qaqortoq.
The fjord is the most common transport route in South Greenland and a local company called Blue Ice Explorer has arranged the boat trip from Qaqortoq to Lars and Makkak’s place.
Summer in the fjord is mild and bright. Along the shore there are several places with green grass and it is clear why the Norsemen who settled here shortly before the year 1000 named the country Greenland. Where the grassy plain ends, the mountain makes an impressive backdrop. The grass grows lushly in the area between the water and the mountain. The boat slows and Lars and Makkak’s house turns up. But where are the sheep?
Our gaze is drawn over the green plain and it falls on a mountainside that rises up in the landscape. The clouds move across the sky and the shadows on the mountain move. A sheep shows up as a white spot surrounded by rocks and willow and disappears again just as suddenly. Where the mountain starts, the world of sheep unfolds.
Lars' great grandfather came from Norway and he settled in Greenland as a sheep farmer. His family has continued in his footsteps. Lars grew up on a nearby sheep farm. When he was in his 20s, he got an opportunity to take over his own area. He had fallen in love with Makkak, who worked as a telegrapher in Qaqortoq. Together, they built the red-painted house with the white window frames and created a home based on sheep farming.
A sheepdog jumps playfully round in the grass. But it is much more than just a pet. The dog is a crucial helper when the sheep are rounded up from the extensive areas where they graze.
The sheep are rounded up for lambing in the spring and again in the autumn when the lambs are big enough to be shipped to the slaughterhouse.
With a flock of 500 animals, four to five people are employed full time in the summer period. Nowadays, they drive into the terrain on ATVs – a kind of four-wheeled motorbike – when they round up the sheep.
Neighbours from nearby sheep farms help out and people borrow each others’ dogs. The big pots are brought out in the kitchen and food is cooked around the clock, because the hard work gives people a good appetite.
Behind the red house there is a fertile little vegetable garden, well sheltered between the house and a weathered stone wall which protects it from the fjord winds.
Lars pulls beetroot up from the earth for the evening salad. They are the size of golf balls and completely round. He wipes the moist dark soil off the roots and a deep, violet colour appears, breaking with all the green colour in the garden.
The mild climate in South Greenland makes it possible to grow potatoes and turnips, beetroots and rhubarb. It is clear why this part of the country is called »Greenland’s garden«.
The vegetable garden looks very cultivated in contrast to the roughness of the beautiful, natural surroundings. In this region, nature is rich in food, with birds, reindeer, fish and berries.
But if you want to grow vegetables in this region, it takes a little effort. The soil is good, but the growing season is short and there can be a lot of wind from the fjord.
There is a wonderful aroma of lamb. Makkak looks up from the stove with a wide smile.
- They eat willow and wild thyme and this gives the lamb a particularly good flavour, she explains.
There is lamb sausage wrapped in fireweed leaves on a platter next to a pâté made of guillemot and duck.
The evening meal is served in the dining room from where the fjord can be glimpsed through a sun room. Makkak presents the food which, in addition to crispy lamb, consists of potatoes and salad with angelica, turnips and beetroot.
The root vegetables are smaller than those found in Europe, but what they lack in size is compensated by their concentrated flavour – as if they want to do their best in the short season. The meat is tender and it tastes heavenly. The dessert is cheesecake made with wild blueberries that taste sweetly of sun.
The conversation is lively during the meal. The daughter, Marie, has just arrived home from a study tour in Canada. When the summer is over, she is going back to Denmark again where she is training to be a nutritionist.
- Food and produce have always played an important role with us here, says Marie.
- The angelica plant gives the salad a nice, spicy flavour and it is also rich in vitamin C, she continues. In the past it has been used by sailors to prevent scurvy. In this area angelica has been used in cooking for generations.
Pilo, who is their son, talks about the time a polar bear turned up close to the house and they managed to find a photo which was then passed around the table.
Makkak talks about the children’s upbringing and how they sometimes had to stay at the school in Qaqortoq for weeks because the weather was so bad, they couldn’t come home.
- We talked over the radio, Makkak remembers.
In the morning, the sun sparkles on the clear waters of the fjord. On the way from the cosy guest cabin over to breakfast in the house, you are met by the dogs. In the kitchen, Makkak has set the table with homemade bread, crowberry preserve and freshly brewed coffee.
Today, Lars is going to celebrate his birthday with family and friends. The food is ready in the porch. The guests will be served juniper-berry marinated musk-ox which will be grilled.
Makkak glances up at the sky. The dogs form the vanguard to the jetty to say goodbye. The boat’s engine revs up and we sail out of the fjord as the first of the birthday guests arrive.