Six fresh inches of powder snow blanketed the farm as I rose for morning chores, with more lake-effect flakes floating past the window. The sky hung low and gray, indicating that light snow was likely here for the duration of the day. But even though I really just wanted to crawl back into bed until some real sunshine showed up, I knew the animals needed me, and there were plenty of projects planned for the day.
On the farm, the animals come first — which means they all get to eat before we do. I haul out my trusty, long black sled and pile on the 50-pound bags of chicken feed and head for the coop. Ducks quack and bob their heads in excitement, turkeys trot through the fresh snow with a perplexed look that is classically turkey.
I make it down to Farmstead just in time for the 9 a.m. opening, and then it’s time for people breakfast and the morning planning session that launches the day. Winter with its late starts and early ends because of the darkness means that we trim down to two meals a day on the farm, with fika (fee-kah) in the middle.
What’s fika? It’s a Swedish tradition of coffee (tea or hot cocoa works great, too) and “a little something” between meals. Some Swedish families have fika twice a day! It’s a time to pause amidst the day’s business, take some time to tend our social nature, breathe deeply and savor a treat. Winter hygge (hoo-ga) traditions would be woefully incomplete without fika.
Today, we savored Kara’s fresh blueberry muffins studded with brilliant berries frozen from Bayfield’s summer harvest. The crisp, slightly sugary tops were a perfect combo with my steaming cup of chai as I watched the flakes make their dance outside. Kara had been scooping and pushing snow since breakfast, and she was ready for a warmup and some much-needed calories. I was gearing up for the next needle felting class, expecting the carloads of eager, scarf-wrapped students to arrive at any minute.
But in that moment it could be just the two of us with our mugs and muffins. It was a much-needed pause in the day’s activities.
Studies in Sweden have found that companies that take a fika break during the workday have happier and more productive employees. It makes sense. When all you do is rush and dash and hurry, at some point your mind checks out. Taking a breather and tending to our social natures helps us center and build in some balance for the day.
Fika need not be fancy, like some English High Tea. It should be cozy and spark joy, like so many other hygge activities. It can be enjoyed alone, but it’s much more fun with good company, so find some fika co-conspirators to join you. And it certainly need not be a whole meal. Think of it as a warm-up, with a hot drink of your choice and a small treat — a muffin, cookies, a piece of cake or even cheese and crackers if you prefer savory.
One of my 12-year-old needle felting students almost always orders hot cocoa when she comes to class. How perfect. Fika and fiber arts — what a great hygge combination. And why not, since we make our hot cocoa from scratch at Farmstead. It’s really quite simple. No need for a powdered mixed when you likely have all these ingredients in your kitchen already:
Simple but Splendid Hot Cocoa for One
1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk (Organic whole milk will have the best flavor)
1-2 Tbsp sugar (depending on how sweet you like it)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
Directions: Place first four ingredients into a small saucepan over medium heat and whisk. Keep whisking as it begins to heat. Heat until steaming, taking care not to scald the milk. Pour into your favorite mug and top with mini marshmallows. Increase the recipe as needed for the number (or size) of mugs you wish to fill.
In fact, so much of the practice of hygge is already right at our fingertips: the beautiful outdoors, cozy projects, simple pleasures, time by the fire or even a chance to visit with friends. But in the hurry of the holidays or the dreariness of the gray and darkness, we can forget.
Renewal becomes illusive as we trudge through the day, feeling perpetually exhausted no matter how much sleep we’ve garnered. Fika can help us to remember the tools for renewal with a small daily ritual. We can use it to check in with ourselves and each other, taking a moment to feed the soul as well as the body.
I think it might be fika time! See you down on the farm sometime.
Laura Berlage is a co-owner of North Star Homestead Farms, LLC and Farmstead Creamery & Café. (715) 462-3453 www.northstarhomestead.com