Many have asked to hear how my summer trip(s) went…here’s the photo-story.  

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After two years being unable to dance because of Lyme, I reveled in the dancing at Nordic Fiddles and Feet, the Scandinavian dance/music week at Camp Ogontz in New Hampshire.  Here doing a 4th of July contradance, though I mostly saved my energy for pols and springar.

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The highlight for me was this group of 9 beautiful hardingfele-playing women.  We dubbed ourselves the Huldralag after the forest-dwelling seductress of Norway who is known to lure men away from their wives to consort with her in the woods.

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Under our leaders Karin Code & Loretta Kelley, we played several dance sets during the week, with rhythm like an unstoppable train!  (Marilyn, Suellen, Vilda, Carol, Karin, Loretta, me, Petra and Patrice)  I also played solo sets for dancing late at night.

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In late July I went to Ashokan Northern Week, where I co-taught a Scandinavian band class with Peter (Puma) Hedlund.  My other classes were in Norwegian fiddling and How to Jam.
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Playing for a Scandinavian dance with Charlie, David, Lydia & Catherine. It was so fine to return to my beloved Ashokan (and see the new buildings for the first time) after a 4 year absence. Scandinavian musician friends, you would love this camp! Northern week includes all instruments, and music/dance from Northeast USA (including Irish/Scottish), Québec, England, France, and Scandinavia. And there are also Southern Week (old-time and cajun) and Western Week (swing, cowboy & Texas) at Ashokan.
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Then it was time to get on the plane to Sweden, and to visit Finland and Norway too.  I’m so very grateful to Siv, Mattias, Andy, Saskya, Laura and many others for making my trip affordable, alternately thrilling and relaxing, productive and lovely in so many ways. This wooden map was in the Vasa museum in Stockholm.

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My host in Sweden was my good friend Mattias Hammarsten.  We’d met and hit it off musically at a stämma (folk fest with lots of jamming) in 2005 and again in 2007, and he good-naturedly turned his life upside down to welcome me to his home/recording studio in Storvreta for a total of 2 weeks before and after my other adventures on this trip.

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Mattias runs the sound at an outdoor amphitheater in Uppsala, where my absolute favorite musician at the moment, Esbjörn Hazelius (holding fiddle above), happened to be playing with his Irish trio Quilty.  I was thrilled to be able to play a couple polskor with Esbjörn after the show backstage.  

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After a couple days in Sweden rehearsing with Mattias, visiting the Linnaeus gardens in Uppsala, and walking around Stockholm, I boarded a gigantic 11-story ferry for the stunning 6-hour journey through Stockholm's archipelago out into the Baltic Sea.  Destination: Mariehamn, capital of the Åland Islands, a Swedish-speaking part of Finland.

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Longtime Ithaca friends Saskya VanNouhuys (in photo) and Andy Ruina with their daughters Prachi and Mieke hosted me at their summer house on the bay in Järsö, a few km south of Mariehamn.  I met Sakya’s lovely parents Dirk & Whitney and had a day of rest before the cornerstone of my trip, the fiddle camp where I earned the money for my plane ticket by teaching Canadian and American fiddle tunes.

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Antons Vänner Fiddle Camp is held on Kyrkogårdsö, a small island 2 hours by ferry from the main island.  This is the view from my bedroom.  Consider this an invitation to come to this camp next year.  You won’t regret it!

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My fellow teachers, Emil Kunze from Värmland in Sweden, Tommi Asplund from Helsinki in Finland, director Siv Ekström and assistant Elina Granlund, both from Åland.  Unlike any other program I’ve taught at in the past, here the 5 teachers meet every evening, after teaching 6 hours of classes, to compare notes, plan and make adjustments so that every student can have the best week possible.  An inspiring model and a fun-loving and dedicated group of teachers...we laughed a lot while we worked.  And I really got a Swedish-language workout, let me tell you.

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There were two groups of kids and two of adults.  (And yes, that’s a bunch of guns casually leaning against the wall in our class space!  I didn’t even think about it at the time.  Reminds me of the time my son’s 2nd grade teacher in Norway told him to bring a hunting knife to class the next day, for building shelters in the woods.  Scandinavians have a different relationship to weapons than Americans, that’s clear.)  Over meals, classes and free-time activities, I became friends with everyone, especially Arne, Ilkka (the guys standing) and Inger (kneeling) in the more-advanced group,

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and Matte (center) and Chrisse (second from right) in the less-advanced group.  

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One evening we walked across the island to the wood-heated sauna and I had the full Finnish experience, complete with dips in the cold sea, alternating with boisterous singing inside by all the girls and women.  I was even persuaded to teach a few songs during camp, and a round in 5/4 time that I taught early in the week was reprised later in the sauna.  The men and boys had their hour in the sauna earlier...no idea what they got up to! (photo found on web)

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Matte invited me to visit him one evening on a neighboring tiny island where he has a beautiful summer log-cabin.

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He and Ilkka love American old-time songs & tunes, so we jammed on the porch of the cabin.  It was surreal to sit there under the reindeer antlers and play Cluck Old Hen while looking out at the Baltic Sea. I don’t know if he got the antlers and rug from a local reindeer, but moose swim over to Åland from Finland sometimes.

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I was given this string of wild strawberries (by Chrisse as it turned out) as part of a secret-friend activity that kept everyone guessing all week.

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Meals were unbelievably delicious with regional specialties and home-grown veggies and fancy desserts.  If you don’t play fiddle, don’t despair.  You could come here for a watercolor-painting week.

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Here is the mid-level group of kids.  A kindred spirit in the love of languages named Sigrid (left) took me under her wing the first night and helped me practice my Swedish.

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Here’s Prachi Ruina (left), my student at home in Ithaca, and the other advanced teens.  There was one more group with the youngest beginner kids, and there I had to teach in (rather broken) Swedish, but the rest of the campers were really good at English, so I was glad to be able to focus on the music and speak my own language while teaching, while practicing my Swedish during casual between-class conversation.

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Our collective sadness at the end of the idyllic camp was somewhat relieved by the fantastic Kvinnfolk stämma in Önningby (near Mariehamn) the next day.  I played a solo set,  

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and also performed a few tunes with the other campers.  But the best part was the two concurrent jam sessions, one with lots of fiddles playing Åland and Finnish as well as Swedish music, the other one of the best Uppland nyckelharpa sessions I’ve ever been privileged to join (on fiddle, since I couldn’t bring my harpa with me).

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The fun continued the next day when Siv and Pernilla came over to learn a French Canadian tune on the Ruina’s porch.

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I promise that only two days of my month in Scandinavia deserve half a dozen photos each in this photo-journal.  This is Andy’s sloop, and he invited Inger and me on a dream of a day trip.

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The weather was perfect, enough wind but not cold.  The boat is a 1985 replica of an early 1900s Åland work boat that was used to carry fish, or to move livestock from island to island. It’s smooth bottom is very comfortable for napping.  I had spent a couple years crewing on large sailboats for weeks at a time during my college years, and have a real soft spot in my heart for sailing, but haven’t had much small boat experience.

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Andy is a mechanical engineering professor at Cornell who has sailed all his life.  He’s an expert sailor and a great teacher, very calm even in situations where other captains would lose their cool.  On the 2 day trips I took with him, in all kinds of wind and maneuvering in rocky, shallow waters, we never once used the motor on that boat for a minute, including docking quite impressively under sail power.  Inger used to own a similar boat, so the three of us worked together well.

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We started in Mariehamn and headed south against the wind.  This is Björkö, an island where Inger used to live during the summers.  We also had a picnic on another island called Rödhamn.  

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Now we’re sailing home wing & wing (it’s called psalm-book in Swedish), with the main sail out in one direction and the jib in the other.  We’re going fast but it feels slow because the wind is from behind.

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Saskya took this lovely shot of us coming into the dock at their house in Järsö.  It sums up the trip perfectly!

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The very next day I fulfilled another dream and went riding with Siv on her Icelandic ponies.  Here’s sunset over her farm, my pony’s ear in the foreground.

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And here’s my pony again, taking a drink in the not-very-salty Baltic sea.

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Siv’s sauna.  I’m not an experienced rider so we took it at a walk, all the better to appreciate the beautiful forest trails and sunset colors.

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My old and new friends in Åland were so generous and welcoming that I decided to stay a few more days.  Here I am on a windier day with Prachi and Mieke in Andy’s boat.

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We are headed to the world’s most unlikely coffee shop, on the windswept island of Kobba Klintar, which used to be the place were ships arriving in Åland would pick up a local pilot who knew how to guide them through the tricky channels among the rocks.  The pilot’s home is now a little museum, and there is a pyramidal navigation beacon on the island as well.

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The only way to get there is by private small boat.  A few volunteers live on the island for a week at a time to serve coffee and beer and take care of the museum and beacon, which now has an art display (and sometimes concerts) inside it.

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That’s about it for trees and buildings on Kobba Klintar.  The rest is just rocks and wind.

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Captain Andy and our jolly crew.

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Remember the 11-story ferries?  They come very close to this tiny island on either side.  That’s Andy’s boat at the dock.  Crazy juxtaposition!

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That’s the Ruina’s summer house in the center of the photo.

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Only 3 more sailing photos, I promise. I got invited to sail with Mårten and Anna from Järsö to Mariehamn in a lovely (larger) sloop from around 1940, and jumped at the chance.

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The only Vikings I saw during the trip.  They are flying the Åland flag.

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Here are Mårten and Anna on his boat, docked at the Sea Quarter in Mariehamn where there’s a small sailing museum, handcraft shop and lots of lovely wooden boats to look at.  

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That evening I gave Inger and Ann a lesson, feasted sumptuously at Inger’s place, and joined them in playing for waltz and tango dancing in the town square as part of Culture Night. I also joined some young busking friends to play an Ithaca tune, Judy Hyman’s waltz Ralph’s Watch, which is a big hit with the kids of Åland and beyond thanks to Prachi and me. This local newspaper caption says we ripped the tune, which is undoubtedly a positive thing, slang-wise. Kudos to my dear friend Judy for the lovely tune.

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After a wistful goodbye to Åland, I arrive in Stockholm on the giant ferry.

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I treated myself to a cold beer after hauling all my stuff up the hill from the ferry terminal.  This is the outdoor cafe version of Kvarnen pub in Södermalm, where Blomkvist and Salander (from Stieg Larsson’s book The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) hang out.  I found it on my handy Millenium book trilogy self-guided tour map. I’m not much of a fan of murder and suspense novels normally, but Stieg Larsson’s feminism and stance against the extreme right, in addition to his brilliant storytelling, make these books worth reading and rereading. I worked on my Swedish by listening to the audiobooks.

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Then I boarded the train for Uppsala.  I rode on about 10 boats and 20 trains, subways and trams during my month in Scandinavia but this is the only fairy I saw, on a train or otherwise.  

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I was met at the train station by a miracle-woman, however...my friend Barbro (I stole her photo from Facebook), who since I last saw her at Eckebyholm has had an entire lung removed.  She still smiles and plays beautifully and we had a lovely session on Mattias’ porch.

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Another fine Åland musician who now lives in Uppland is Gerd Stenlid, shown here wheeling her harmonium (pump-organ) at the Byss-Calle stämma in Älvkarleby, Uppland.  The instrument is surprisingly lightweight considering it’s powerful sound!  She and her partner Ingmar drove me there by the back roads so I could see more of Uppland’s beauty.

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My friend and teacher Leif Alpsjö organizes the stämma here each year. Byss-Calle, “the town’s greatest musician”, made some of the nyckelharpa’s greatest tunes back in the 1800s.

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Our little group of jammers (one of many). There’s Ingmar, sketching when he’s not playing fiddle or whistle.

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When the tune Byggnan by Byss-Calle came round I had to chuckle, and also maybe shiver a little bit, because all nyckelharpa players know the story of that tune: Byss-Calle made a bet with the workers repairing the bell tower, that he could write a tune before they finished their work.  And there we were jamming at the foot of that same bell-tower (if it hasn’t been entirely replaced since 1800) which is again surrounded by scaffolding.  It’s time for a new great tune, quick, before they finish!

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On the way back to Storvreta, Gerd and I pay homage to fiddler Gås Anders at Björklinge church.

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Though it was my 4th trip to Scandinavia, this was the first time I got to really look around Uppsala, which is only 10 minutes from Storvreta by train.  This is the Cathedral, largest in Scandinavia.  

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Interior of Uppsala’s cathedral.  It’s oldest parts are from 1272 but it has changed a lot over time, so Trondheim’s cathedral actually gets the prize for being the largest medieval building in Scandinavia.

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Acres of bikes outside the train station.  Most belong to local students or to commuters into Stockholm, only half an hour away.  Flat terrain, less rain than Ithaca, very high cost of obtaining a license and owning a car, and abundant fast trains, subways, trams & buses all contribute to the popularity of cycling and public transport.  We could learn more than a thing or two from Scandinavia. A fair proportion of women in government, for another example: Sweden is 5th, Finland 10th, Norway 15th and USA 96th in the world.

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Uppsala University is the oldest in Sweden, founded 1477.  Its library houses this original manuscript from Mozart’s Magic Flute.  Amazing that our notation system hasn’t changed one little bit since 1791.  I also saw the 6th-century Silver Bible…couldn’t read a word of it, though.

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The lovely road I often walked from the train station or grocery store to Mattias’ place.

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The bigger one is Mattias’ home and studio.  I slept in the little stuga out back.

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My perfect little red house.

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Mattias’ landlords and closest neighbors are an elderly couple who board their daughters’ prize-winning jumping horses.  Both horses and people seemed to enjoy our music.

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My other teaching commitment during the trip was a 2-day Québec fiddle workshop in Oslo.  I had time for a quick walk in Gamla Stan (Stockholm’s old town) before I continued by train to Norway.

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Here are some of my students, including my wonderful hosts Magnus Wiik and Laura Ellestad (left), relaxing outside the Norwegian Music Academy where we held the class.  I taught several reels including Reel du pendu, which was fun because it’s a close relative of Norway’s famous halling Fanitullen, also in AEAC# tuning. Laura & Magnus live in Tøyen, a largely Pakistani neighborhood of Oslo. Walking (and eating) around there was very different than anyplace else I’d been on this trip! Quite refreshing really.

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I nicked this photo from Facebook, because Laura is an inspiring hardingfele player.  Here she is playing for the wedding of her teacher Tore Bolstad, with whom I have also had classes.  During my 4 days in Oslo I took lessons from both Tore and Laura, as I am preparing to record hardingfele on my next CD.  I love their playing so much, and they were both very generous with their time and hospitality.

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Gustav Vigeland’s sculpture park, containing over 200 of his awesome works. He’s a controversial figure politically (Nazi sympathizer at the end of his life apparently), but not realizing that until afterward, to me his work brought to mind 1930s WPA murals in the US, and Soviet art of the same era, honoring working people. I think it is beautiful.

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My last morning in Oslo, I had time to visit the bookstore in the Nobel peace center,

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see more of Vigeland’s powerful sculptures (now that’s a mama to be reckoned with!),

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and the WWII museum which is in this castle.  It was fascinating to learn about successful acts of non-violent resistance to Nazi occupation, especially by Norway’s school teachers, 86% of whom took a brave stand and refused to indoctrinate their students in fascism.

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On my way back from Norway to Uppland, Chrisse and Arne invited me to stay overnight at their place in Stockholm’s Vasastan neighborhood, and after a fun morning lesson with Chrisse, we toured around this loveliest of cities a bit. Here at the Vasa museum,

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here walking back from Djurgården to Östermalm.

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Then, after a delicious dinner at Gerd and Ingmar’s house in Uppsala, it was time to load up the harmonium and head over to Mattias’ to do some recording.

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Over the next few days, Gerd and Mattias each backed me up on half a dozen tunes for the last two CDs in my 5-CD series called Scandinavian Fiddle Tradition (which will also eventually include 5 tunebooks, one to go with each CD). CD #4 will be Norwegian bygdedans music, and #5 will include marches, Finnish & Danish tunes and other miscellaneous gems.

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Listening to the results. Next week I will be mixing the tracks at Electric Wilburland studio near Ithaca.

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One night our old friend and neighbor Olle Paulsson stopped by for some tunes. Olle is a modest but very significant figure in the trad music scene...his Drone label produced most of my favorite Swedish CDs including Väsen, Lure and NHO.

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Making an album is intense work for body and mind. I had fully intended to attend another stämma in Stockholm my last weekend in Sweden, but found I really just needed a day off from playing, so I rested and walked around Storvreta instead.

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Here’s what I found on the trail behind the farm. Wild berry-picking is a major summer pastime for folks all over Scandinavia.

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Olle and his partner Ingrid invited me to look at a local rune stone and drink coffee at a garden cafe. A fine day off.

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With my computer full of newly recorded music, photos of my adventures, and contact info for dozens of new friends, I regretfully packed my bags one last time. I hope many of those friends will take me up on the offer of reciprocal hospitality in New York State. My guest room awaits you!

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Now I’m back home in politically progressive Ithaca, where I’m supporting a socialist candidate for the next US president. And if that doesn’t work out, we may still be able to do a little something in the presidential election to improve our record for women in government...

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There are a few reasons I’m glad to be home again...one is the abundant veggies & fruits of harvest season at the Farmers’ Market and my own garden.

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Reuniting with my wonderfully supportive husband Dave, and son Brendan, is another reason, of course! (this photo is a couple years old)

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The tunes live on: Back home playing Swedish nyckelharpa music with Stefhan Ohlström at nearby Trumansburg’s farmer’s market. Thanks for reading! Send me a message if you make it this far so I can win the bet with my husband, who predicts no one will look at this because it’s too long. Get in touch

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