You might be forgiven if, at first glance, you think the images contained in the Instagram account @blackbirdandgoose are part of an advertorial campaign. They seem too perfect to reflect reality, offering a dreamy, pastoral look at a lovely couple as they ramble through garden and forest, immersing themselves—and us—in the bounty of the West Sweden coastline where they live. There are swoon-worthy shots of fresh-picked berries and bundles of flowers, fuzzy baby ducks and a kitten in a crown made of posies, and what must be blessedly silent, shaded wooded paths, plus beautifully dressed dinner tables, steps overrun with autumnal pumpkins, and apples so fresh and gleaming you can almost smell them, bursting from baskets used in the day’s harvest.
The couple in question is Olivia Hansson and Anton Wijk, who live about ninety minutes north of Gotëborg, in a home that sits tucked within a little community of row houses. Built in 1927, the buildings once sheltered the quarriers and stone masons, including Hansson’s paternal ancestors, who pulled and worked granite from the ground. The pair garden on about a half-acre there, growing tomatoes, winter squash, different varieties of peas and beans, radishes, herbs, and much more. They also tend the plum, cherry, and apple trees and red and black currant and raspberry bushes that Hansson’s grandmother planted long ago, and gather honey and wax from twenty beehives located next door, on familial property her great-grandfather purchased.
Well-spoiled chickens—the local children love to stop by and give them treats—Muscovy ducks, and kitties (at last count, three) dash about underfoot. During the growing season there are flowers everywhere, which the pair sometimes sell to local vendors. Dahlias are their favorite. They make ends meet by working at jobs that suit their sensibilities, Hansson in a garden center, Wijk as a charcuterist and butcher. They say their fondest wish is to own a small farm where they could keep more livestock and sell their produce. Theirs is a quiet, simple existence, which is just how they like it.
“We try our best to appreciate the small things in life,” Hansson says. “An eager bumblebee burrowing in pollen gives us as much joy as a new iPhone would give to someone else. We find life better if you look beyond everyday problems and worries and focus on the beauty of nature around you. What could be better than a walk in the woods in autumn, with a small shower of rain followed by sunshine? The birds singing in spring? Watching new life being born or seeds sprouting out of the earth? Capturing these precious romantic moments is what our Instagram is all about.”
Hansson grew up spending her summers in the house where the couple now lives, cultivating sweet peas and helping her family preserve fruits and make cordials and jams. Wijk was raised in Vimmerby by, as he describes, “gardening parents and a father that dreamed of being a farmer, who taught me about fertilizing crops, animal husbandry, and more.” The couple met in 2009 at the University at Gotland, where she was studying antiques and he archeology. It was love at first sight, though a shared passion for the history of the 15th century helped bring them even closer. They still enjoy cooking the food and making the garments of that period, taking part in the historical re-enactment held every July at the medieval fortress Glimmingehus.
The couple take many of their own Instagram images, though photographer friends like Nathalie Greppi sometimes drop by and snap shots of their picturesque life. London-based filmmaker and designer Tanmay Saxena so fell in love with what he saw of Hansson and Wijk on Instagram that he produced a collection inspired by them for his brand, LaneFortyFive. “The idea of deep and wide pockets in one of the jackets,” he wrote on the company’s website, “stems from their habit of foraging berries and fruits and collecting them in the pockets of the jackets during their walks through the forest and gardens.”
Hansson and Wijk’s days are full but are what they term “slow.” A day in early autumn might begin, Hansson says, “by letting all the animals out with fresh water and feed. Then we take a tour of the garden, to see what needs watering and try to spot new flower buds, new baby courgettes and see if the tomatoes are blushing a bit more. Then it is time for our own breakfast, usually a sturdy oat porridge with homemade jam and a big cup of steaming tea with a small spoon of our honey in it. As we eat, we plan the day, setting up tasks.”
They could include, she continues, “tying up plants heavy with produce, cutting armfuls of dahlias for delivery, harvesting basketfuls of fruit and veg, perhaps pressing apples for juice
or perhaps a batch of cider, gathering mushrooms in the surrounding woods, picking wild berries. Simply harvesting, gathering, foraging, preserving, brewing, cooking, and just basking in the bounty that our early spring efforts have brought.”
Along with each other, Hansson and Wijk say they love old houses with preserved interiors, natural materials, seed catalogs in spring, visiting museum archives and libraries, hot cups of tea, and the life they’ve carved for themselves from the land, its slow pace, and, Wijk adds, “the closeness to nature as you notice each and every shift in season. We love how the year is broken up into tasks, month by month, season by season. Everything becomes natural, and you feel day by day what needs to be done.”