Thursday, December 1, 2016

We're on track again

After the period of thaw winter is returning once more and now it might stay for a while. The lakes are covering up with ice and once again I am in awe by the moaning, wailing sounds it makes as it expands and thickens. On a starlight, crystal clear night it creates the most surreal atmosphere. A dusting of snow and a full moon would just complete the whole thing.
As has become custom by now, not that I'd want it this way, we suffered from an economical backlash. My wife's 5 weeks unemployment during summer and my 7-week hole in my agenda during early autumn have caught up with us during the last 2 months. We were so glad we had stocked up on food during summer! This might have all been avoided had bureaucracy been not as bad as it is in Sweden. We still are dependent on an income, yet my wife's unemployment åayment still hasn't come in.... since july!! I am not eligible for one, since I am not officially unemployed, despite no income for 7 weeks. Once more a reminder of our dependency and once more a motivation to create a life here that would minimize the impact of such happenings.
Yet there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel, hoping it is not the headlight of an oncoming freight train. By the looks of it my wife will be employed fulltime starting january 1st as a crafts teacher for both woodworking and sewing. She even has the prospect of getting an education in thse fields, complete with a degree at the end, so she'd be a licensed teacher! That would be 3 birds with 1 stone; a fulltime job plus learning crafts in both woodworking and sewing; all 3 highly welcome in our homesteading plans.
This news could not have been more welcome, since prospects at my job are looking bleak. The authorities have finally begun to realise that they have been spending funds to freely and now there are severe budget cuts, which will have a very negative impact of both the refugees as well as the staff. A good deal of the kids will be forced to fend for themselves much more, whilst still sharing all the commodities and staff will be severely reduced. Looking back at my experiences with refugeecare and similar economics and facilities, this is a recipe for rapidly increasing tensions and thus violence. Already the atmosphere has become tence among staff....
So all this makes that we are actually stepping up our focus on this homestead. I will continue to fill occasional holes in the schedule at work, but no more fulltime substituting during the summer months or any other long term, many hour work periods. My job will be taking care of home, animals and garden.
And since I do not have enough to keep me busy all day...... We are picking up plans to increase or homesteadingness by adding..... *drumroll......* goats!!
Now wait a minute..... I said before we would go for cows.... Yes, well.... there are a number of conditions regarding cows that might make that step one to far or to large. First neither of us has any form of experience with cattle, secondly we would have to use someone else's land, which makes things a little complicated, especially if the cooperation between them and us becomes flawed for whatever reason. Third we simply have no barn or anything to house those cows and even a shelter might be an issue on someone else's land in terms of permits, location and materials. And last finances; buying a cow will set us back considerably. Buying at least 3 to get at least some idea of a herd would simply prove to much for us. And then we'd have to have fields with electric fending which costs a pretty penny in itself.
plucked from pintrest
So goats.... Not ordinary goats, but African or Nigerian dwarf goats. Most likely the first, since these are much more easy to get here. Now as I understand it there are only benefits for us. First, we most likely can keep them on our own land, namely on the rocky, forested part, which is not very useful other then a nice place to sit.... which we do not do all that often anyway. If we would do this then we'd need some fencing too, which can be done with 2 rows of sheep fencing on top of one another and that fencing is the same as we are using for keeping the dogs in the garden. Often you can get rolls of this fencing for free.
Creating a goathouse looks very well possible by extending the roof of the chicken coop to one side, add walls and other necessary facilities. Additional bonus is that this way the animals can keep their homes warm during winter simultaneously.
Thirdly goatmilk appears to be a lot better for human consumption and the milk is equally suitable for butter and cream, but the feeding seems a lot less fussy than with cows. There are more options available like using garden- and kitchen "waste" or clippings from fields and bushes.
And then there is the all important issue of finances. We can easily have a complete flock of dwarf goats for the price of 1 cow.
The downside so far? I am not too fond of goats, but that might be because I remember them as being large, smelly and headbutting me.... That was a long time ago, so time to broaden my horizons once more.

And speaking of animals, all ours are doing well. The chickens have finally completed their shedding period and are looking more presentable by the day. We finally managed to get the chickencoop insulated completely, so hopefully they will not freeze their toes off, when winter returns in earnest. During the previous coldspell we were quite worried about them, but they managed the -14C rather well in a non/barely/bad insulated shack.
Big problem these days is that they are not allowed out in the open. Bird Flu rages in Denmark and the first cases have been confirmed in southern Sweden too. So the authorities have declared a coop-up for all feathered livestock. Our flock, being regarded as a hobby, is allowed to go out in the enclosed area, but they prefer to pretty much spend the days inside anyway. However as soon as we open the door to go in and feed them, they flock toward it and try to get out that way!
Before they were confined to their quarters, they happily roamed around the garden. They quickly discovered the bales of hay in front of the coop and got busy!! Before I knew it they had completely picked apart the top half bale, of which the other half was used inside the coop. They had a party!!

Caught the 2 culprits!!

Our cats prefer to stay indoors mostly as well. The cold and the following wet were not so much to their liking. Our latest addition had a bit of a surprise for us. (S)he was sold to us as a she, but as "she" developed and grew, it turned out that "she" was actually a he!!

And then there are our "boys".....
Energetic as ever, they regularly drove us to the point where I yelled:"Sell them!" But whenever I have cooled down I realize it really isn't their fault and getting rid of them simply is no option. My conscience and feel of responsibility will not allow that. We have taken them in, so we will take care of them as best as we can, despite annoyment and frustration. However we have come to study their behaviour more closely and have begun to notice patterns. When full moon is about, they go nuts and they do so too when there's wind. They pull and pull and pull and there's no holding them back or correcting them.
However we also noticed that there is something "wrong" with them. Something mentally. Rex' brain appears to be overactive. Sometimes so active that he can not compute even the simplest of commands, like left, right or step. He regularly appears lost when we give those commands, unable to grasp their meaning. This by no means is always the case, but on certain days. These are the days we can not leave him alone at home for even 5 minutes. He will destroy something. He struggles with concentration and above all focus and as a result has difficulties in learning new things or if he does, struggles in using that. He also appears overprotective and/or very insecure. I am sure that that is, because of his history previous to his coming to us. He is damaged, so that is something we really have to take into account.
Lester on the other hand is just plain stupid. He really is. If I had to compare him to a human I would compare him to a 4-year old boy. A none too bright boy at that. He is joyful and kind, but has the equivalent attention span of the aforementioned boy. And the enthusiastic drive to check new things out, regularly yanking us this way and that.

But we are slowly making progress in "raising" them. We can meet others without ending up in a freestyle wrestling match, we can sort of call them back when we see hares or roe deer and we can get them to take it slow..... more or less.... We'll get there in the end. I am a bit dubious about the sledpulling-thing though. Let alone hooking them up to a tri-wheeler or a bike! We soon will see how the first part will work out.
One thing I am actively working on with them is forest travel. I was tired of complaining of not being able to go out into the woods without dogs redecorating the living room or piledriving me into a tree or dragging me across the forest floor. So now that we can read our dogs a little better, I take them off the trails and into the woods, hopefully learning them that they must take it slow in that terrain. So far the results look promising. I am still alive, no cracked skull and no bones broken. A few near misses and painful reminders... yes.
One more thing I was tired of complaining about was the lack of community here. So I started to create one myself, using facebook. I created a facebook group for sustainability, and all subjects related to that, within our own village and the response so far is above my expectations! Time will tell if and how this group will develop and as such help create such a community or network, but I am hopeful. Our village, actually a gathering of many small ones, is 222 km2 large with maybe 2500 residents spread out over it, so getting into contact with locals or likeminded can be challenging. Despite it's limited number of inhabitants, our village has a lot to offer in regards to sustainability; pig- and dairyfarms, a chicken farm, meat cows, a slaughterhouse, a few beekeepers, hunters, some large scale farms, plenty of appletrees abound. We have forests, a river with a hydropowerdam, lakes, a sawmill, a tractor garage, you name it.... The only thing missing is folks growing their vegetables and cooperation and I am hoping that the use of this tool will close the gaps between a good number of the inhabitants and increase the sense of community....

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Bulgarian army anorak

As an afterburner of my trip to Norway  to see Odd I thought I'd throw in a little gear talk for a change; a review if you will. I did bring a few "new" things with me on that trip just for that purpose; to try them out and I must say with mixed results.... sort of.
The first one was the Bundeswehr Gebirgsjäger Rücksack, seen here....

The second one is an anorak. At first I thought it was a Russian anorak, that's how it was sold, but after some digging on the internet it turned out to be Bulgarian! Designed apparently for special units only, so no standard army issue. As if that matters.... Bought it with the intention to give it to my son on his/our Arctic-trip. But I will be keeping it for myself. The main reason? It is too small to be used as an Arctic outer layer. The fact that we are not going is another matter. And for it has a perfect fit...

This anorak actually makes for a perfect non-winter outer layer. I tried it out like I said during the Norway trip up in the mountains in subzero weather. It was windy, but dry and the anorak kept the wind at bay. I was not cold. Cool and comfortable actually. It is not as baggy as my brown Swedish anorak, making it perfect for outdoor activities.
I also tried it at home, during the first spells of winter in snow and cold, windy winterweather. Down to -5C with a wool sweater underneath it kept me warm.... enough. Below that its lack of bagginess meant not enough insulating trapped air and I started to get cold. Not freezing cold, but no longer comfortably cool either. In short this anorak is excellent for conditions anywhere between +15 to -5C, where you might need a windbreaker or just an extra, thin layer. Since the trip to the Arctic will not materialize, this will be mine during my summer trips. I really like it.
Now for the technicalities; It is a sturdy, tightly woven, cotton anorak, olive green. with decent stitching. It has military stamps in it, which I mistook for Russian and metal button with a 5-pointed star on it. There is a double string along the inside of the hood; one for tightening the hood around the neck and one around the face and then there is another one to close up the throat/chin section. The cuffs have elastic bands in them, which are not too tight, ensuring a perfect fit. There are also cuffbands, but they seem to fulfill no purpose other than decorational. Adding an extra button would give them a purpose, though.Around the waist a string can be pulled tight, if so desired. There is a large pocket on the chest and, an oddity for me, a large, single pocket across the butt or lower back, accessible from both sides. All pockets are closed with a flap and button.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Bundeswehr Gebirgsjäger Rücksack

As an afterburner of my trip to Norway  to see Odd I thought I'd throw in a little gear talk for a change; a review if you will. I did bring a few "new" things with me on that trip just for that purpose; to try them out and I must say with mixed results.... sort of.

The first item is one that seems very popular within the bushcraft community; the German Bundeswehr Gebirgsjäger Rucksack. A smaller, 30 liter backpack, no frame, no bells 'n whistles. Made out of canvas with plastic fasteners.
The layout; one main compartment with a smaller, flat one on the back, 2 small outer side pockets. The lid has 4 plastic D-rings, which enable you fasten items on the top, as I did with the poncho. All straps are adjustable right under the fasteners. The carrying straps can be adjusted near the bottom.
The pack itself has a rubberised bottom, so you can put it down without worrying that the contents will get wet right away. The pack has a single hand carrying loop at the top as well.
Behind both sidepockets there is a gap, which allows you to carry gear behind them. Stuff like an axe or some poles for instance. You close off the top via a drawstring.
Overall I like this pack enough to not get in the way and traversing denser woods should not be a problem. it is small, yet big enough to hold whatever you might need on a daytrip. The construction is sturdy; strong canvas, straps and decent stitching. With care this pack will last years, as shows. This one has seen use in the military and after and still goes on without damages.

Is this pack all halleluja then?
No. I found it did have some shortcomings. Shortcomings big enough to make me have my reservations toward it.
For one there are the carrying straps. I did not find them overly comfortable and after the hike with Odd my shoulders felt tired, despite the fact that I had not overloaded the pack. I even had room to spare. Enough to bring spare clothes for instance. So that was not it. It might be a matter of getting used to them, but I would have like some adjustment features at the top as well.
Another matter was an equally pressing one; I felt the messkit pushing into my back the whole time; a bulge right at kidneylevel. Again not overly comfortable and I might have to rethink the way I load the pack, but when using the Swedish kit, there really isn't another option other then to carry it outside the pack, which should be possible. I'll look into it soon.
My third gripe concerns the sidepockets; they're too small!! Even something like a standard NATO canteen needs to be forced into one and my not huge hands barely fit into them to retrieve stuff, especially if something is positioned behind the pocket, like an axe. Hmmm.
And then there's the last one (and easiest fixed); no waist strap. A simple strap enhances the carrying comfort greatly and that's what I added; a longer strap with fastener, salvaged from a derelicted Berghaus Vulcan II. And what a difference that makes!
Some other things I did was to not carry the poncho during the trip with Odd. That greatly reduced not only the weight of the pack, but significantly shifted the gravity point of the pack a lot lower down the back. The proved a very smart move when crossing the rocky and slippery terrain! It most likely would have influenced the sense of balance in a negative way had I not omitted the poncho.
I added a first aid kit in such a way that when I opened the flap the kit popped right out and was immediately accessible if needed, but would not lie around or get lost otherwise.

So would I recommend this pack?
I don't know. Before you buy one, first have a look at it, try it. It is nice, but I do think that its virtues are a tad overrated.

Add 19-11;
A question that always seems to pop up is:"How much content does such a backpack actually have?" There are figures ranging from 25 up to the high 40's. Here's the answer; 30 liters filled to the brim!
Maybe with the sidepockets added 35 liters. But then you're really pushing it.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Things just slowed down

Things are pretty slow on this blog lately. It isn't that I have nothing more to say; I am actually a bit behind. No, it is more like the motivation to say things has kind of left me. What's the use?
I see and hear many so-called discussions all around me and I do get involved in quite a few myself, but there is no discussion. People take a stance or have a view and they do not discuss that. No, they force that upon you. Their view is right and you have to be converted to see it their way. Having a different opinion makes you a heretic, an infidel. Maybe even a threat? Listening to each other's arguments seems like an old fashioned etiquette. Furthermore it is no longer in fashion to actually back up one's opinion by facts or arguments. Mere feeling or believing something is enough to revert to step one; conversion. And if someone can not be converted, they you just shout them down, point with a finger and call them names. You're either with them or against them.
So I'll back away from doing that for a while.....

November came and with it came winter. And we got caught completely off guard. A few important things are not finished yet for a number of reasons. Finances is one, authorities is another. The underlying reason to both is bureaucracy. We are experiencing a few samples of Swedish bureaucracy at its finest with ridiculous processing times for applications. We're talking months here, as in more than 2. I feel this is one of the most crippling things in Swedish society; an overly large, embarrassingly slow and inhumanely distant bureaucracy.
But still..... winter is here! One day the forecast looked good; dry, temperatures around or just above freezing with even a hint of sun. Perfect weather for doing outside work. And within 2-3 days that was completely changed; first we got showered with sleet and wet snow, the wind picked up a few notches and temperatures dropped. Then 20-40 cms of snow was forecast and the entire region got panic stricken, since most still drove around on their summer tires. Many rushed to the professionals for help, creating insane long queues and according to the newspapers "the law of the jungle ruled" at those places and we all know what that means. They even decided to work all through the night...
Afterwards it turned out to be just more sleet, wet snow, but also snow that remained, turning roads into hazardous slushy ice surfaces. The amounts seemed to be accurate though and we were changing our tires in that weather. NO fun. Now the temperatures do not rise above freezing anymore and we have snow, both on the ground and in the air with more to come.

Winter is here and yet it actually is the first time that I do not like it arriving. I feel ill prepared, uneasy, like I have missed something. I'd rather had it arrive a month later, but it is as it is.
Life has slowed down, there isn't much we can or want to do right now. The garden slumbers, the bees are at rest, the chickens hardly leave their coop and even walking the dogs is less vigorous than usually. Body and mind feel weary and my days at work seem to demand more of me then before.
Many an hour is spent with a book in hand, but I've not become completely idle.
Things just slowed down........

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The future is looming

It is a grey and drizzly day. Trees are leafless or just about, no weather the dogs or we enjoy and the chickens will not go outside either.
Lately I've been watching the media and a picture is emerging that leaves me rather upset. No, frightened is more like it.
The US is moving material to Norway, fighter jets to Iceland and the Netherlands plus more and more troops deploying elsewhere around the globe, especially around the edges of Russia. Russia on the other hand, by heads of Putin, is continuously warning us, via the media, that we are being steered towards an armed conflict on a massive scale. Declaring no fly zones in Syria, the US of course not accepting. The Russian navy sailing toward Syria. The situation there is spinning out of control and a direct confrontation is all but inevitable.... And if that isn't enough, then there's always the South Chinese Sea, where once again the US is present an area with a military volatile situation, where surprisingly the Philippines change sides, turning the cold shoulder on the US.
The financial systems are failing us and about to implode (impending bankruptcy of the Deutsche Bank ring a bell?) and what better way to distract people from that rather uncomfortable bit of "news" than to create chaos by swarming mainland Europe with refugees and to beat the drums of war? Western mainstream media is all too eager to spread the word of terrorist threats everywhere and, here in Sweden, not a day goes by where the Russian threat is not being mentioned either. Many a blatant lie these media spread has been unravelled and proven false in alternative media, but the general populous is very willing to ignore those, almost instantly labelling them "conspiracy theorists". End of discussion there......

I don't have to draw out the geopolitical picture as it is at the moment. Those smart and brave (or dumb) enough can see that for themselves. the answers are out there for those willing to look and see..... The US, commanding it's NATO minions to follow, is steering us toward a war by cornering Russia, littering the globe with military bases, taunting the Chinese in the South Chinese Sea and generally making enemies, wherever their boots touch the ground. No, long in advance, so they create an excuse to send in those boots in the first place.
The tone of voice by US politicians and high military ranking officers is clear:"We will beat Russia"... Question is:"Why should you?", but that's a different matter altogether and one that will become insignificant, once the curtains fall.

What is keeping me preoccupied these days is:" And then what?"
What if, no when, war brakes out? I can not speak for others, but when I look at Sweden I get quite nervous. Sweden, having no military worth mentioning, despite starting drafting in conscripts again next year (which should be saying something too!!) is utterly defenceless. A collapse within a week is the general estimation. Any major deployment of troops by either side would be met with very little resistance. And yet that is not my main concern. My main concern is its total dependence on import, when it comes to daily life. According to several sources Sweden's level of self sufficiency is about 45-50%, but 100%  dependency when it comes to fossil fuel based resources. And Sweden is easily cut off from the outside world, when it comes to bulk transport. And that is its achilles heel; transportation.
In case of such a cut-off, and in a war scenario that would be pretty much instantly, food- and fuel supplies would dwindle quite fast or become seized by the government for military and emergency services. Just a 50% reduction of oil import alone would mean a famine within weeks.
Any outside help that might make it over here, would end up in one of the three major cities, which house roughly 2.2 million of the total population of 9.6. That would mean supplies would probably never even leave the cities. I have no idea what an average person would need to live in weight, but it would take a daily armada just to feed each and everyone of those cities.
Even if, by some miraculous event, supplies were to leave the cities, there'd be mobs waiting for them just a few miles down the road, inland. So those inland would be left to fend for themselves and there aren't many who know how to. Even the vast majority of farmers depend on fuel and imported seed and fertilizer for their crops. Shops would be empty within days (hours more likely). Anyone remember the food riots of Venezuela in 2015?? And their issues are still not sorted! The problems continue in a country that has plenty of resources, but where the government has sold out its own people, just as it is happening here.... Where people on the fringes of society are pushed over the edge.
Taken during the venezuela lootings

But then the next blow will come: electricity. Although Sweden does have its own hydropower plants, windmill parks and nuclear reactors, these can not provide enough. Not by a longshot. So any remaining refrigerated or frozen food would spoil.... fast. The same might go for medicine. Some of it has to be kept refrigerated, but all of it has to be transported.

If there is anything our current society is totally dependent on, then it is those 2; transportation and electricity. And one single event just might knock out those 2; a severe winter storm or a flood might do it, but then people could still rely on help from the outside, since it would most likely be pretty local. But what if an entire country got cut off?? Especially a country like this one, highly vulnerable, completely helpless and picking the wrong friends. Social order would collapse in the blink of an eye. Then what? United we stand, divided we fall and this country appears to have completely lost any form of homogeneity, of community.

I am considering 2 options; the static one and the mobile one. Both have their distinct (dis)advantages.
The first one allows for stocking up on food and other supplies, having a vegetable garden and livestock and house a family in relative comfort. However it might just as easy attract unwanted attention, making you an easy target. You'd need a decent community, willing to help and defend each other. Plus it would be very hard to leave behind if the situation calls for it. As I mentioned before, a sense of community is all but absent in the village we live in, but we're working hard on that. Another issue is that we are the only ones seriously growing food and having some form of livestock here, making us stand out quite a bit.
The latter one makes it easier to adapt to the situation, simply by moving away. But it would mean quite a logistic endeavour, involving a functioning car and above all, fuel. If either fails, (and fuel might quickly become scarce) you are stranded. And a moving, working car probably would make a nice target as well. Lesser numbers also make a far less effective defense. And winter especially makes the latter option a whole lot less attractive, despite having a large, heated tent and field beds.

As a matter of fact I have just finished a book dealing with such a scenario resembling my visions and it confirms all I have feared, but also brought some new insights. Despite it being fiction it is very realistic. And grim.

I worry...
Yeah, I really worry....

Will my kids belong to the generation that has to rebuild it all? If so, I sure do hope they will do a much, much better job then the ones before them did. because those really fucked up.
Either way, when everything does go belly up, we're in a world of hurt big time and my vivid imagination paints a picture that is none too pretty...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Recapturing lessons and an early new year's resolution!

There were a good handful of posts that were in the making over the past few weeks, each with a handful of thoughts jumbled together. I will try and recapture the majority and essence of some of those into this one. This one is about changing seasons and new year's resolutions in october (bet I'm the first for the new year! Hah!), so actually new season resolutions.

The season of golden brown and shades of grey.
This year we experienced a phenomenal Swedish indian summer. Temperatures were well above average, much sun and far too less rain! It has been really dry all year and the lake waterlevels show it; 30-50cm below their usual level. Streams run dry regularly.
This draught might become a problem next spring too. The bees have settled for winter and I closed up the hive as much as possible. In preparation for winter I have been feeding them sugar or at least tried to. They wouldn't really take it, but supplies in their combs are not excessive either. Draught means far less nectar and thus honey. I did all I could do, so now I just have to wait and see, hoping they'll make it until spring. I fear that I might have to order new populations though....
The usual autumn morning fogs have been few and far between, also much less than usual and so far we only had a few occasional night frosts.Yesterday was a glorious, warm and sunny day, but today was far less favorable. The winds has changed north by north east and is chilling to the bone. Sky's grey and the mind wonders.........

The same location on 3 different occasions

It is also the season of death and dying. A few weeks ago I found this dragonfly by the side of the road, which was actually dying. It had spent all its energy and I could just pick it up and look at it. It tried to move around a bit, but it died in my hands and just fell to the ground, when I flipped my hand. It is sad to see such a beautiful and fascinating creature go to waste, but its kind will be back next year.

2016 is a year in which some significant things have been made clear to me or so I think so.
During the previous years I had been dreaming about becoming economically "independent" by starting a company producing and selling honey and seedlings or by starting a biological farm, commercially growing and producing vegetables and maybe even meat. As it all turned out it was not meant to be. And I think I see the reason for that now.
For starters the whole beekeeping-thing. The way I would have done that would be the absolute wrong way. The way which had economy in focus, not ecology. Conventional beekeeping is not the right way and I had to learn that for myself and by myself.
As for the farm I was simply aiming wayyy to high. Ambition and planning (dreaming) will not get you there all by themselves. Knowledge and discipline are equally required. Which I had none of, despite me thinking I had. So much for being cocky....
The reappearance of bushcraft into my life, by means of the meet and the Norway-trip, was to show me that I had lost or at least was losing the deeper connection to the natural world and I was to be reminded that I have to relearn and find that again.
And to top things off, the trip to Norway did not just give me fresh mountain air and good company, but also the insight of what to do and how to do it. Last night, the wife, our girls and me were talking about this and my oldest daughter jokingly said that in this picture, this cooperation that is growing, she would take the role as a hunter. She had just come back from the archery club, having taken up shooting her bow after the summer break, And I was a bit baffled by that, since it was exactly the conclusion that I had made earlier for a possible scenario. Right now it looks like I am going to develop into a farmer and homesteader with all the skills needed, my wife is the teacher, who will try to become a skilled and approved teacher in both wood- and metalworking, my oldest daughter expressing her interest in hunting and archery, but also in wanting to learn hands on the killing and butchering of animals for food. Our youngest daughter does show signs of having an affinity with plants and growing them, so that might develop. She also loves animals, but not unlike other kids. It seems to be more of a genuine interest in them instead of cuddling and petting them.
In real life this means no more halfcooked measures or faffing about. This means I will focus on growing crops, keeping bees and lifestock and taking care of the produce. No more wasting time on a full time job, just doing the occasional stand in to support our economics where and when needed. This means my wife doing her halftime job as a teacher and getting a degree as one besides that. And guide our kids, where their interests lead them.

However it sometimes does feel like I or we are not making much progress, but another chat with my youngest daughter, on our way home, put things into perspective once more. We had just went and bought 7 more hens and 1 cock and we got talking about how we have expanded our life stock this year. We had 1 dog and 2 cats, but added 1 more dog, 1 more cat, 14 hens, 8 cocks (of which 3 are still alive) and we got 2 bee populations plus all the equipment that comes with all of those. Not at all bad, I thought!
Looking at our crops and harvest I'd have to say that the biggest yield was learning by failure. Not only were our kale and cabbages devastated by caterpillars, were our carrots and garlic very small due to insufficient thinning and compact soil, but also were our potatoes mostly rotten and riddled with small, white larvae or worms of some kind. All potatoes in every plot were infected, so I have the suspicion that they were infested even before they got into the ground. The 3 species I planted came together in 1 cardboard box.
An estimated 30% of the potato crop was usable, some 50% was, as said, rotten or infested and the remaining ones were green. Our own fault for not properly covering them during growth season.
The few night frosts we had finished off pretty much all plants still left standing, of which quite a few did not make it all the way to ripening; sunflowers, pumpkins, corn and above all the poquito beans. All would have been good if the season would have been 1 month longer, so that means sowing earlier.
The apples I dried ended up on the compost heap. The first batch had not been dry enough and when we put all of them into a pot, the first started to mold and infected the rest. For next year I will make a rack to dry them by air. Takes a lot longer, but I think the results will be much better.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Norwaytrip 2016 - Part 1, an Odd place

Well, it finally happened. After 2 years I met Odd again.

Packing was a bit tricky. Weather forecast was good, but a bit cold. Around +6C during the day and around or slightly under freezing at night. I always find that a hard range to dress for. It is very easy to under- or overdress, meaning being cold or sweaty. That means layering, thin gloves and ditto knitted hat. Fortunately no precipitation was forecast.

The possibilities of rifle shooting and a foxhunt did not seem to materialize after the initial planning. The firing range was closed and a nearby, ongoing moose hunt messed up the foxhunt. And I thought it was just as well. If there are no plans, there are no expectations either. No we could go out, hang out and do whatever we felt like, giving us the freedom to adapt to whatever came our way.
However only a day or so in advance Odd told me we could use the range after all! Yess.... I had hoped for that. It's been more than 25 years since I last sent a round down range and it is kind of fun and relaxing to do so.

On friday morning I packed up the final things and after saying goodbye to the homefront I went on my way at about 13:00. Had a long drive ahead; at least 5-5,5 hrs. I was about 500 meters from home, when the phone rang. The wife.... I had forgotten my civvy, non-bushy coat and cap... So I turned around and got those. What a way to start.....

The drive to Odd's place in Norway went without too many notable things; golden autumn sun, glistening lakes, rolling hills, forests in autumn colors and the grey ribbon of asphalt in front of me. Quite boring really... ;-)
I arrived att Odd's place safe and sounds and got to meet his family. One just can't show up empty handed and what better way to show ones appreciation than to give them something of yourself; homemade jams, fresh eggs and dried apples.
In return I was treated to a large plate full of bacon and eggs. Lots of bacon... That refuels a depleted system!! We spent the evening chatting and catching up, while sharing a real beer. I befriended their dog Balder and Odd showed me the rifles and presented me with a present of his own; a mooseantler pendant with the rune Algiz in it, representing the moose. But it also means protection.
After a good nights sleep I or we awoke early (at 06:10!) to the calls of their youngest daughter and we spent the morning drinking coffee and waiting for the family morning routine to take its course, before we would head off to the local surplus store. They advertised with a sale of wool insoles and I have been wanting some of those for ages! While we waited we watched a squirrel and a magpei playing in the trees and bushes of Odd's garden. We think it was play, since allthough they were chasing each other, there was no aggression present and they even sat next to each other. Amazing behaviour.... I also gave Odd a little advice on how to use his garden for cropgrowing, since he had asked for that. Just before 10 we hit the road, drove to the surplusstore, roamed about, found the insoles and continued our way with 5 pair following me home. The almost 3 hour drive up north went by without incidents. We had lovely weather and the back country roads are a joy to drive over and early in the afternoon we arrived at Odd's parents place to leave the dog there. He doesn't handle bangs very well, as many dogs tend to do. Then it was off to the shooting range!

There Odd had to adjust his scope to the rifle, a Tikka .222 rem if I am correct. He turned it this way and that, but couldn't get it exactly right and I walked up and down the range quite a few times. I enjoyed the scenery a lot though, as the previous pictures might've shown. Spent the first 2 rounds fired sitting in the ditch, right in front of the target, but it turned out that that was prohibited.... I wonder why..?? It is a tad intimidating to sit there with bullets passing overhead, safe or not. The calibration would not work out as well as he had wanted to, being always off to the left and too low. At first we thought it was the crosswind, blowing from our left, but even after compensating for that, we were still off.
After he had adjusted the scope as good as it possible could, I was allowed to send some rounds down range myself!! It had been more then 25 years, the type of rifle is very different back then and I never used a scope before. I am quite pleased with my results nonetheless!!
And after that Odd brought out the heavy artillery; buckshot. After he had fired a couple of rounds on the claypigeons I threw, and hitting them, it was my turn.
Every single claypigeon made it to the next round, alive and well, but I had a blast trying the practicing ammo. The real deal would be a tad more hefty.


After the firing range we drove back to Odd's parents in order to pick up Balder, but we were not going to drive off just like that. No sir... We had to come in, sit down and have coffee.... and homemade applepie, which was still warm... and icecream... The family got caught up in conversation and I tried to follow. Not a chance.... I had thought that I, because I learned Swedish, would be able to follow Norsemen during a conversation and I had been proven dead wrong. And now I was being treated to a local dialect. Like hearing people from a different part of the world! Still I enjoyed the company, being invited into their home and being treated to coffee, cake and icecream. Wouldn't want to have missed it!!
The following drive up to the cabin would take about half an hour over a winding, climbing gravel road. Amazing views all around. Good thing there was little to no possibility to stop and take pictures, otherwise it might have taken a couple of hours to get to the cabin. However there was one occasion where I just couldn't resist.....

The only shower we saw during our stay.
Was it snow? Was it rain? We settled on snow, melting on its way down, turning into rain....

Eventually we got to the cabin and after we unpacked and got installed I spent quite some time at being amazing at the location.... So much to see and the fresh, clear vibes I picked up where exhilarating and invigorating. As if the stress and fatigue of driving for many hours simply vanished. Which of course it didn't really, as my pillow would prove me later that evening, but still....
Odd claimed the kitchen as his domain for the time being and since it was too small to rummage around in with 2, I let him do the dinnerthing, while I scouted out the area. I was being treated to the most awe inspiring sunset and scenery.
For dinner there would be something that many in the western world might fill with dread; whale meat. Norway still catches whale, which they view upon as a resource and, while it might be environmentally questionable, I thought of it as a culinary and cultural experience. And I am sooo glad I did! It was delicious. Lean, dark and very tasty meat. There's no way around it. Topped off with a kind of gravy, accompanied by mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. And a beer.... of course...

View from the kitchen window.

After dinner I spent some time star gazing, but not for too long. Temperatures were dropping pretty fast and we kept several stoves burning to get the cabin to warm up to comfortable levels. The star gazing turned to flame gazing with conversation gradually slowing down and why should you talk, if that would mean filling the air with noise? 
With another beer, a crackling fire, Balder snuggled up on my lap I allowed to let my mind wonder until it went empty. Wish I had my wife with me there, though..... and it was very quiet without teens and large dogs around....