Camilla Jørvad

Can we get to know you a little?

My name is Camilla, I'm a self-taught photographer, nature lover and garden nerd. I live on a hobby farm on the small Danish island Ærø with my husband, two children, and lots of animals. 

What can you tell us about the island you live on and the people there?

There is a different pace here than on the mainland. Visitors always seem to notice how the 1 hour 15 minute ferry ride over here is a natural encouragement to breathe and slow down, so once you hit the island itself you immediately sense  that there is no point in running fast over here. There are mostly two kinds of people here. Those who were born here and at some point in their lives decided that they would never leave (or leave for a few years for education or job purposes and then come back to start a family. And those who choose to move here (often young parents) because they are intentionally seeking a slower more connected pace of life. Homes are relatively cheap here, nature is just outside your door, and often one income is enough. And if you can work remotely or online the ferry ride is no obstacle.

Island life is not a solution for every problem you may bring with you, and also has its own unique set of challenges, but the very physical slow pace here even in summer and complete peace and calm in winter outside of the tourist season is balm for the soul.

You have been a photographer for many years... How would you describe your style?

Like I mentioned I'm self-taught, so apart from the first 2 years where I experimented A LOT trying to find my way and photographic voice, I quickly discovered that I like to keep it simple. And that's what I have done the past 10 years. I never manipulate my images, never retouch them or add textures etc. I want my photos to portray and convey the natural beauty that exists around us as accurately and true to life as possible. I naturally seek out the beauty of daily life.


What initiated you to start your current lifestyle? Can you share your insight behind the Sigridsminde concept?

For a very brief time when I was in my late teens and lived in Copenhagen for a year my dream was to live in a fancy apartment in Brussels and work as a translator. But when at university, I chose the literature, history, art and culture aspect of the English language instead of the business route. I'm glad I followed my gut, because I would never have thrived in a big city. Deep down I yearned to return to the same kind of rural and natural surroundings and experiences that I grew up with, and both my husband (who was born on the island) and I wanted that same kind of childhood for our children. 

The seasonal aspect of our life here has evolved slowly over time as I grew older (and wiser) and became more aware of my habits as a consumer. What started as a matter of principle quickly became a way of life because it felt right and true to let my energy, food, projects and everything else expand and contract with the changing seasons.I spent most of my 20s traveling all over the country and often abroad many times a year too photographing destination weddings, and life on the road, however exciting it was, slowly wore me down, and HOME became the grounding word that saved me. Sigridsminde is no longer just our home, but also my place of work, my playground, my reason to get up every morning, and, without sounding too full of myself, I suspect it may become my "legacy" too.  

What do you grow in your garden and does it sustain you fully each month?

This 2020 season is a bit different than normal because I moved our entire kitchen garden to a new area in the garden during winter and have only just finished the first half of the new spot. So this year I have only had space to put a few things in the ground, like peas, squash, strawberries, a few varieties of lettuce, and potatoes. I grow tomatoes, climbing beans, asparagus, rhubarb and squash too in the cottage garden among the flowers there. But I did finish my new berry garden this spring which is now filled with blueberries, three varieties of  raspberries, gooseberries, two varieties of red currants and black currants, boysenberries etc. We have a pretty big orchard, some are old trees that have been here for generations and some we planted ourselves when we moved in ten years ago, so we have far more apples (which we press into juice and freeze), pears, cherries, and plums than we could ever eat or preserve ourselves, so there is plenty to share with both our own animals and insects and other wildlife.

But in a normal year we are pretty much self-sufficient in veggies, berries and fruit from June-December. We raise our own chickens so we have a steady supply of eggs and always the option to put a bird in the freezer. My husband hunts and regularly brings home various birds and occasionally deer, and there are lots of local farmers and fishermen from whom we buy grass fed free range organic meat and locally caught fish.

My big goal for when the new kitchen garden is completed and my polytunnel is up and running is to extend our growing season well into winter, and sadly because of climate change the sea keeps the temperature pretty steady and warm throughout winter and it is already possible to grow lettuce for example without cover most winters.

Nature is full of surprises, and you spend a lot of time within wildlife and close to the earth. We're sure that you have accumulated many stories. Do you have any stories to share that made you feel the home you live in and the habitat to be especially magical?

There is nothing particularly magical about this island compared to so many other truly magical places on this earth. I have been lucky enough to see some of the most impressive parts of our amazing globe, Scotland, Norway, USA, Italy just to name a few, and this island cannot compete in terms of natural beauty. There isn't even that much "real" nature here, it is mostly agriculture. But what I do, and what I really believe we can all do, is being willing to find, create and appreciate the beauty that is right in front of us, wherever we are, right now. I live here because this is the only place in the world where my husband really wants to live, and over time I have learned to value what is here, and the rest I have worked hard (literally) to create and build into something that is as close to my dream surroundings as I can get. Creating a space where we can live side by side with other living creatures and all thrive is my dream.

How do you deal with waste at home?

It is something we talk about a lot. And our kids know exactly how I feel about it and why. Our chickens take care of 90% of our kitchen waste, including their own eggshells. Everything else is sorted into 7 different bins for recycling. Waste material is something that bothers me every single day. In the months where we have very little to harvest, it literally sickens me to watch how much plastic we bring home from the store. Everything organic here is packaged, so all the great advice on how to bring one's own containers and bags etc when you shop are of no use in rural areas unfortunately. It saddens me that I have to choose between plastic waste or chemicals. So the only answer seems to be to grow more, preserve more. 

Many people started thinking more about the pastoral lifestyle during the pandemic when they were shut away at home. In order to relax themselves they started developing a curiosity to what was coined 'cottage core'. This has actually been your lifestyle for many years. What do you think about this being a trend? What does the cottage core aesthetic represent to you?

As I understand it 'Cottagecore' is very much a stylized romanticized perfectly controlled version of country life. White linens on a laundry line in dappled shade, home baked bread, little lambs, and floral dresses. It's cute and pretty and always lovely. That is very much the opposite of my daily life. Country life is not a fairytale. It's blood, sweat and tears, quite literally. People often comment on my Instagram posts that I'm living a dream life, but I doubt many of them would actually like to behead a chicken. I am very much NOT in control here, and nothing is perfect. When living with animals, especially large ones, something always goes wrong. You have to be prepared to make tough choices every day. I have the same fights with my kids as everyone else, and I work just as hard to make my marriage work as everyone else. And I'm completely upfront about this online too. Because it is so important to me to present the reality of it and I know many fellow Instagrammers who do an excellent job.

Some from a humorous angle, some from an environmental angle, some from a health angle, but all of them committed to representing both the ups and the downs. Idealizing country life only leads to disappointment for all the people dreaming of becoming homesteaders or smallholders. 

That being said, the pandemic really solidified for me that we are on the right track with the life we lead here on the farm, that living a financially simple life gives us more options and that self-sufficiency is a great gift when external problems threaten to cut off the systems we have set up in our society to keep everyone fed. For us it makes sense.

Mind and Body balance has become especially important these days. What type of benefits have you discovered through your working with nature?

As a highly sensitive person who has dealt with several rounds of both stress and depression, mental health and physical health are connected on all levels of life. As I sit here right now answering these questions, the window right next to me is wide open and all I can hear is the wind in the trees and the birds chirping (sometimes interrupted by our rooster). There is no doubt that the absence of noise is healing to me. Even though nature is FULL of sounds, it still feels like silence. The sound of the sea slowly caressing the beach and my feet still feels like silence.

The hard physical labour of working in the garden is so good. The more tired my body is the better I feel at the end of the day. When I'm at my worst, my mind is exhausted but my body is wired and unable to rest. Physical labour keeps my mind clear and my body tired. And of course, homegrown and homecooked food is just so much more nourishing than anything most of us can buy in a store. I totally understand the ease of fast food and microwave dishes etc (I'm no purist!) but I think it is a great detriment to the health of humanity that so many steps of the process of creating a meal have become so far removed from most people. When you eat nourishing food that actually fills your cells with everything they need you can work harder and more focused, and then you sleep better and wake up recharged, and it's all connected. 

Do you have any advice for city people to live more mindfully? We would be happy to learn any methods or techniques that we could perhaps implement at home ourselves. 

Some people feel that 'slow living' is kind of like a state of mind. But I live it quite literally. I do my best to move slowly every day, not rush around like a headless chicken. I refuse to run (unless I'm actually going for a run). As I work in my garden I often take moments where I just stop and look around me and let my mind wander. I always take a month off social media every summer and every winter, just to reset and reconnect with my immediate surroundings and the people in it. I encourage everyone to be very intentional with your use of the internet, especially social media, use it, don't let it use you and steal your time and your life. I really like Sam Harris' meditation guide, which is non-religious and non-spiritual but focused on mindfulness, allowing sounds and other disturbing factors to come in and learning to let them go instead of needing complete silence to find a moment of peace. Also try to pay attention to your surroundings, really SEE them. Often there is more beauty around us than we realize. And if you don't have access to a garden or other outdoor space, the world of indoor plants is open to you and will not only bring visual relief but also improve air quality.

Camilla Jørvad

words & interview: İsmail Dağlı

photography: Camilla Jørvad