WORDS & PHOTOGRAPHY: AM
"I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours. He will put some things behind, will pass an invisible boundary; new, universal, and more liberal laws will begin to establish themselves around and within him; or the old laws be expanded, and interpreted in his favor in a more liberal sense, and he will live with the license of a higher order of beings. In proportion as he simplifies his life, the laws of the universe will appear less complex, and solitude will not be solitude, nor poverty poverty, nor weakness weakness. If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them." - Henry David Thoreau, Walden: Or, Life in the Woods
On a foggy Sunday at the end of a long and winding forest road, surrounded by the dense cloak of nature, with time slowly falling away, standing still almost, I found myself listening to the silence, eyes wide open to the sheer beauty, a private oasis, breathing gently, looking through the window of a wooden room, overlooking a lake, reading these words and taking in their significance. Being here it comes as no surprise that this was the place that finally won over Mette Helbæk and Flemming Hansen, a perfect place for their next chapter, a place to realise their dream of creating Stedsans in the Woods - a lab for the lifestyle of the future, including a restaurant, cabins and a floating spa.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with their work, they are the couple and driving force behind Stedsans ØsterGRO in Copenhagen, they were, in their own words "until recently living in Copenhagen, running a magical restaurant on a rooftop but we gave it up and sold everything to follow a dream of creating something that would touch our lives even more. Combining wild nature and forest farming with beautiful, luxurious meals made on the best and freshest ingredients possible and a comfortable place to rest after the meal. Here we will have our playground and lab for the lifestyle of the future. A future where we enjoy fresh ingredients from our own fields while we increase biodiversity, build up topsoil and minimise the use of water and fossil fuel. We want to show that it is very doable to live a life that is good for the individual as well as our surroundings. Furthermore we want our guests to return home with inspiration and motivation to bring a greater respect for nature into their everyday lives."
So it was to this end that on a cold and foggy January day, we had the esteemed honour of being invited to their first ever event as the newly created Stedsans in the Woods. The day began with a delicious broth, served in the barn with shaved root vegetables and fresh sprouts, once comfortably seated Mette and Fleming took a moment to explain their vision for the future and guide us through their wall of inspiration, with a life that is closer to nature, filled with energy and vitality, permeated with above all happiness. Having launched their bumble bee like dream, a project that by its sheer scale should not be possible, but somehow even though they have way too little and a monumentally big vision, they are nevertheless making it work. They are an inspiring couple whose infectious enthusiasm has meant that people believe in them and their vision, enough to dedicate both funds and time. Architects, carpenters, scientists, urban farmers and journalists are all flocking to help make this project a reality, they already have two hundred volunteers, willing to give their time for free just to be part of this inspiring project. Later on in the day, during our wonderful six course feast of such delights as fire roasted giant beets with goats cheese and hazelnuts, upon presenting the grilled heart of beef, Nicolai Tram, a well respected chef stated "I lost my heart to these guys I hope you will lose your heart too" - he and his wife even bought the house next door, so that they could be part of this wonderful future and certainly if the food and natural wine combinations were anything to go by, their future is surely a bright one.
The plan is that their new restaurant will be a long communal table for approximately 30 guests, set in a 800m² glass house - the third room - strategically placed in the forest by a beautiful lake, under the treetops and stars, basically as close to nature as it gets, here it won't be about food miles but rather food metres, as a guest you will be able to follow the creative process in the semi-outdoor kitchen where they will be cooking over fire, beautifully plated, creative food served at a well set table. Where the flow of positive energy in all the processes before plating will be of equal importance - as the life in the soil, the right varieties of seeds and crops, a good atmosphere in the kitchen, relationships, vitality and hospitality. As most ingredients will be coming directly from the forest or their small scale permaculture farm, they will be picked and harvested minutes before they end up on your plate.
Simply put this project of theirs is a gathering of minds, working towards changing the future, looking at life a little differently, with respect. A luxuriously simple life, following the philosophy of Henry David Thoreau’s Walden: Or, Life in the Woods “Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.”