For more than 30 years Michael Lindebjerg has produced TV. As a producer, as visual manager, and as a photographer. Now he has replaced lenses and microphones with birds singing and a pruner, and his smile has never been broader.
Just a Lowering of the Shoulders Away
”It was cold, it was grimy, and the visibility was almost zero.” Michael is recalling the day in January five years ago when he and his wife Pernille took the ferry to Samsø. Their mission was to find a summer cottage. ”We had reached an age where we wanted to buy a summer cottage. We were meticulous and made several trips to Mols and West Jutland until Samsø suddenly sprang to my mind. I had often been there for work for TV2 Østjylland”.
While they were on the ferry, Pernille and Michael realised that, in fact, it was not too far from their house in Højbjerg to Samsø, especially because the ferry crossing itself felt extremely relaxing. “The term ’Lowering your shoulders when you come on board’ was not invented because it sounds smart. That’s how it actually is,” Michael says.
A gift-wrapped Plantation
A short time after Pernille and Michael left the ferry they were standing in front of the house that made them feel that this was their place. The country house had 5½ hectares of land, and that made them think. ”As a film photographer I used to see and film all that happened around me, but I was never the one who took action. I missed that. I needed to do something with my hands. Something physical. Something I could feel and see,” Michael recalls.
The same year they bought the house on Samsø, Michael put fifty candles on his birthday cake. ”Some 50-year-old men have racing bikes or golf clubs on their present list. I would rather have trees,” Michael explains. My guests came with one apple tree after the other and Michael started to plant.
At the Appleversity
It soon became obvious that the small birthday wood he coveted was not going to be very small at all. “I was struck by the fact that all those trees looked like an apple plantation. And when it already looks like a plantation, I might as well make a real one”, Michael says with a smile.
Today there are 3,100 organic apple trees with four different varieties; Discovery, Holsteiner Cox, Aroma, and Ingrid Marie. Last year Michael gathered his very first harvest, but it has been a long and bumpy journey to get there. ”I knew absolutely nothing about apples, plantation management, pruning etc. before I set out, so I have taken a few lessons at the Appleversity, as I call it. Yes, I’m still taking lessons and I’ll probably never finish them”, Michael explains.
Of course, the Appleversity is not a real education, but a mix of professional literature, an experience group for organic apple growers, help from good friends and neighbours, and on top of it, spending a lot of hours ‘among the trees’. “And the funniest part is that I learnt how to start my old Massey Ferguson tractor and how to handle a stubborn steel wire on YouTube”, Michael explains.
On Nature’s Premises
At that time five years ago, when Pernille and Michael were searching for a summer cottage, it was partly because they needed to get closer to the nature that they didn’t have around them in Højbjerg near Aarhus where the couple lived their daily life. ”On Samsø, we are right in the middle of nature. We can feel, smell, and hear it all the time, and this is extremely fascinating. We also run our apple plantation on nature’s premises. A violent storm or large amounts of rain may totally change the conditions from one moment to the next. The important thing is to hold hands with nature as well as you can, in order to achieve the best result”, Michael explains while pointing at one of the many nesting boxes he has put up for titmouse, great titmouse, starlings, and owls to help getting rid of the pests in a natural way since he cannot use pesticides.
”Part of the plantation project is to learn how to do it. That is, the process itself,” Michael explains, and with visible pride he sinks his teeth into a red and succulent Aroma apple. “Because, at the end of the day, it is the apples that matter. ”The first few years there were no apples on the trees, so it was fantastic when I could fasten the picking basket to myself last year”.
Most of his apples are sold on the island, but there are also a few dealers in Jutland. Michael presses some of the apples in his small cider mill where every single bottle of apple juice is manually tapped and labelled.
Kindness on the Chat Stick
In the courtyard Michael has placed a solid 300 kilo beam of larch wood, and he has named it the chat stick. ”I have realised that, on Samsø, people like to chat with each other. People take a sincere interest in the lives of their fellow human beings, and what they are tinkering with at the moment. Many times during our first days here, when people came unannounced to have a chat, we would be standing in the middle of the yard or were leaning over the car. Then one day I went to our local sawmill and had them make this chat stick. And it has been a great investment!”, Michael assures us.
On this chat stick Michael has met many helping hands and gained a sense of the intense intimate characteristic of the island. ”People from Samsø are curious in a good way. There are lots of initiatives across the island and a great common wish to add new values to the benefit of the local community. When people like me turn up with a crazy idea about planting an organic apple plantation, we are not met with a frown or any prejudice, but with helping hands, some good advice, and many new perspectives”.
• Michael Lindebjerg has won the title of TV Photographer of the Year seven times for various programmes, including ”Mors lille dreng”.
• Michael has also been nominated for the Cavling Prize.
• Michael’s wife, Pernille, is a schoolteacher at Holme School.
• The plantation is located in Toftebjerg – near Stauns Fjord and Sælvigbugten.
• Apples and apple juice are sold under the name ”Samsø Æbler” and ”Michaels Most”.
• You can follow Michael’s work on the plantation on www.facebook.com/samsoeaebler
Last updated: 28. Mar. 2018 09:55