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Gustaf Jökull Olafsson

I met Gustaf Jökull Olafsson at the geothermal pool at Reykholar on my second trip through town in September. He was there with his daughter, and I was staying at the campground again that is adjacent to the pool. Aside from being one of the town's elected officials, Gustaf is also a cow farmer, whose farm is located at Miðjanes, just west of Reykhólar on the way to Staður.

We talked for a while that evening and Gustaf invited me to stop by his farm the next day, to show me around. I was quite happy to have the invitation, and the next morning I took a drive out to Staður at the end of the road west of Reykhólar to see the old church there, and then stopped at Miðjanes on my way back.

Miðjanes is a relatively large farm complex, with a house, and two main buildings, one for the cows and the others for the bulls. I met up with Gustaf as he was cleaning the pens for the bulls. He has between 90 and 120 cattle, which he raises for meat and milk. The milk is the primary income from the cows, and he showed me the milking system in the cow barn. He is quite proud of the product that his cows produce and his oversight of the process: his milk constantly gets a grade A, the highest rating for milk in Iceland.

The barn is set up to facilitate the milking process, and the milk all comes in through separate tubes into a small central room where it is evaluated before preparing for transport. This is the quality control center. From this central location, Gustaf can keep track of the quality of milk coming from each cow, and can target any problems with the milk and trace it back to the individual cow.

As Gustaf showed me around the farm, he explains that the original parts of the exisiting buildings were constructed by his grandfather in 1962 and then added onto in 1995. He is currently doing some renovations to a large room attached to the cow building. Among other things, the renovation entails tearing up the original concrete floor, which has begun to settle. It seems a herculean task, and when I point that out, he tells me of another similar task: when I visited Reykhólar a couple of weeks earlier, I photographed a piece of property which had a ´fence´around it constructed entirely of basalt columns. It turns out that this is Gustaf´s house.

He had the idea and when he presented it to a landscape architect, he was told that it couldn´t be done. That was incentive to do it. So over a period of three years, he collected basalt columns from the volcanic cone outside of town (some weighing nearly 200 kilos) and hauled them two or three at a time back to town in his pickup truck.