Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Springequinox and inspiration


Today is the day (or night) of the springequinox. Night and day are in exact balance a short while, before the sun takes over and rules the coming half year by lengthening the days and shortening the nights.
I was lucky to enjoy a real early springday, flooded in sunlight and temperatures well over freezing. Snow and ice just collapsed before my eyes. These days are also days of renewal or alteration for me, personally. My physical conditions (and medical team) are forcing me to rethink my path once more. The farmingdays appear pretty much over. I simply can not continue this way. And so I have set my sights on a new path, hoping to (not entirely) leave behind the world of agriculture and move toward the world of academia.
I will continue to do (some) homesteading, but must drastically alter my modus operandi a.k.a. the way I work. And to create some form of income after I end my career at the dairyfarm I have applied for a position as mentor on the local högstadiet (highschool), ages 12-16. In this position I would be a councelor, middleman and contactperson among other thing. No teaching in front of a class. I also sought an education. That is a course on international relations, politics and history and, once completed, should give me access to higher education facilities.
My current situation means that I have a lot of sparetime and I must admit I do not spend all of it in a productive manor. I am not allowed to either. So I splurged some of my cash on a new pair of binoculars, since the previous ones pretty much died. It is not an ultrigh quality pair, but the improvement over my antique 7x32 is massive! I now have a new 8x40 and the coating on the lenses ales all the difference.
I had the opportunity to use it studying a fox that has chosen a bolder in out garden as a restingspot. It lied there in broad daylight and in plain sight, no 10 meters from our kitchenwindow! And chickencoop.... One of the next paychecks might see me getting a small, but decent camera with zoomlens.

 

But I was also inspired by another activity. My friend Olli asked me if I was interested to follow him and a family out on a day in Gyllbergen, the naturereserve and cabinsite I have been to a few times now. The youngster in the group had been wished to have some basics in survival and outdoorskills tought to him, so we were happy to oblige. The day inclused some basics in navigation, snowshoeing, firemaking and knifehandling. The day started with going over the basics, before we set out on our snowshoes. During the trip Olli told a deal about the forest, how and what to do in certain situations and at one point we decided we had "gotten lost", night was falling and we need a place to stay. So we went over the basics when it comes to shelter and fire and the group was given the challenge to make one. The succeeded quite well actually and you could see the sense of accomplishement on their faces.
We then headed back and made our way for the cabins, where snowshoemaking from scratch was tought. That did not go as well, since the snowshoes kept falling apart, but all the basics were covered. I am quite dure the young lad (and his companions) had gotten a lot to think about. We covered pretty much every basic aspect of being out and I hope he felt inspired to continue developping. It was a great day and it felt good to be out again, especially after recent grey days with heavy snowfall.
Animalstracks were few and far inbetween, but we did find some noce sets of native snowhare and invasive foresthare side by side. The difference is huge!!











At the very end we briefly talked about making a signalfire. Off course we had made a fire on this location and Olli had gathered quite a bit of spruceboughs and since we needed to clean everything up..... These ended up on the fire, creating a large column of smoke, rising above the trees...


Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Scouting for new grounds and botanical treasures

The other day my dear friend Olli asked if I was interested in scouting out some new grounds and look for rare or endangered species and boy, was I! Currently I am at home on sickleave and I feel cooped up to much already. We had been experiencing a period of serious thaw and pre-spring weather, so I was a bit edgy and restless.
I can not disclose to much on the area (an abandoned military depot) we went to, since it is off limits, but the facility itself was not our primary goal. The shielded area however meant that finding rare fungi, for anything else is not visible this time of year, had a good possibility of success. And we pretty much succeeded in every aspect! The base was cool, we found some very intrigueing animaltracks and a number of endangered and rare fungi/mosses. But that is Olli's terrain, since I am a complete novice in that field. However it was kind of fun to see and hear Olli becoming a tad nerdy, when he found something.
Of the facility in question we refrained from taking pictures, since that is prohibited, but I did find some online, so want to share a glimpse... even if it is a summer image and not as recent.


The area is open to public, allthough the depot itself is closed... sort of. The fence around it is anything but intact; parts cut open, parts collapsed and I believe certain parts not fenced off at all. Still I felt a little uneasy, since we were trespassing, despite having no bad intensions. The law abiding citizen is deeply imbedded in me, it seems. ;)
Right from the beginning we found something very intrigueing; a hole cut in the fence. But it was not the hole, but the tracks through it that puzzled us; moosetracks. A moose had crawled through the holw, but left only footprints. And a few strands of hair. Judging by the size of the prints and the length of the hair It must have been an adult moose, yet the hole was just up to my waiste! How could it not have left more marks in the snow???
Once in we quickly saw we had not been the only ones. There were relatively fresh tracks of someone having walked his dog there, but we were a bit startled that we found out someone had been clearing snow on the far side of the depot! It hadn't been done to recently and one would expect that the first thing one would do was clear the area around the entrancegate, but that was untouched?!? All in all weird. We crossed the area, since we were actually heading for another area, the shoreline of a small lake behind the depot and that was only reachable this way. We left the buildings alone, but looked in amazement and wonder at certain features of the depot, wondering what would lie behind those sealed entrances. Later, while searching the net, I found some answers.... All over the depot we found tracks and signs of animals; fox and moose mainly and there was one set of tracks that must have been a cow with her calf. They must have gotten in through the non-fenced in part?

After we had left the depot behind us and had reached the shoreline, Olli figured it was time for some coffee, so we settled... sort off and started looking for firewood. Here too signs of visitors were clear; a used firepit and someone had taken the trouble of constructing a chair out of rocks!
We got a bit sidetracked while looking for firewood, reading animalsigns and looking for fungi, but eventually we got a fire going and I made coffee. It was time for lunch and a lot of talk and during this break I got a few messages.... Johan, from our local group, had been busy. He has been quite busy lately, making leather items, sheaths mainly, and he had made another one... Just for me!
He had been looking at the Mora Garberg I was given for my birthday and had decided that it did not look well with the other items on my belt. It did not match "my style". So he made one that would! He actually had planned on surprising me, but was unable to contain himself. He sent me some pictures and a short video:



And yesterday a small package arrived... I am soo pleased with it! Thanks Johan!! It now rides on my belt and you will see it appear on a blog near you soon.
After lunch we packed up and headed out again, leaving the depot behind us and working our way uphill. I spotted a bright yellow spot and thought someone had spraypainted it. Turned out to be a type of lichen, but just that one spot!
The terrain got more and more difficult and loads of blowover trees did not make things any easier. Olli found a few interesting species of lichen and fungi and we climbed and slugged our way aroud the base, back to the starting point. The way in had been far easier. We circled the depot and I wonder if we would have found our way in if we had gone round it in the first place.
Either way we had a great day and loads of exercise too! The snow had been deep in places, covered in a hard crust which more often than not could not bear us. Showshoes would have been handy, but inbetween the trees there was not much snow left.
And speaking of which...... I did not go home emptyhanded. Just before we said goodbye, Olli shoved a pair of snowshoes into my hands. He figured he had enough, where I was lacking...
This sure was a day of receiving. And not just of goods, but of friendship mainly!









Monday, February 18, 2019

Spånsan fäbodar





Well, there's no denying it anymore; I am broken.
These past few weeks saw me struggling with a lot of physical discomfort and pain; shoulders, elbows and right wrist have been acting up quite badly. I sought professional help and the verdict was inflammations in both shoulders AND both elbows; impingment in the shoulders, the right more affected then the left, and golfer's elbows (don't even play golf!) and from the right one the problems were spreading into my right wrist and hand.
This has far reaching consequences both for my professional career as well as privately. The physician asked me if I seriously wanted to continue my current job on the dairyfarm, clearly indicating she would deem that not the wisest of choices. However I am not ready or willing to give up neither my job nor my chosen homesteading lifestyle, so it means a serious alteration of routines and making compromises. The elbows can be fixed, but it might take 6-12 months before they are fully cured. The problems with the shoulders will be permanent, but can be eased with proper training up of certain musclegroups and moderation and adaptation when it comes to physical work.
This message hit me hard and that night I sat on the couch, feeling.... well, not broken, but something had snapped. Some cracks had appeared in that what I perceive myself to be like. I needed time to not just let the inflammations ease down a bit, but also to process it all. I rang my employer and asked for a few days off.
Coincidentally our outdoorgroup was gathering just that weekend and I contacted Olli to see if I could still tag along. The gathering had been in the making for quite some time, but I was more than welcome! So on saturday morning I packed up what I thought I needed and headed toward Spånsan Fäbodar; a collection of huts and cottages on the edge of Gyllbergen naturreserve, just outside the city of Borlänge. There was a trackerscabin, where we would gather and spend the night. I arrived shortly before lunch and after having greeted the Martin and Olli, who were already there I got settled and had a bite to eat. During that time the rest of us arrived and things got crowded. The cabin at times resembled a beehive, buzzing with talk, activity and laughter.
After all had settled in nicely Olli suggested we'd do some snowshoe walking and tracking, the only problem being that there were not enough snowshoes. So he and I figured we'd tag along without those.

This is one of the typical ways Boel likes to portait people (me).
photo; Boel Engkvist
Boel Engkvist
For much of the time I was at the head of our little colomn and at one point I decided to play a little trick on some of the followers, one that I had done on several occassions; just stand still and blend in.
It worked rather well, since both Boel and Olli passed me by, while I was standing there in plain sight. I spooked them good, when I spoke to them!
The below picture show both the distance and the lighting conditions. It was overcast and grey.

Olli Niemäla

Boel Engkvist
We learned many lessons that day, the most important one being having a good time and keep laughing, no matter what. At places I sank into the show up to my groin and I learned to read the trail of the ones in front wearing snowshoes. If I kept to the centre of their prints, where tjeir toes had left a mark, I could often remain on top of the snow if I gently put my toes onto that mark and then add my weight to the rest. Often, but a lot of times even that didn't work!
I also learned, by watching others, that balance is key! especially when wearing a rucksack. The slightest imbalance and you'll tip over, sometimes ever so slowly, but unstoppable. Getting up proved to be very tricky as well!

Magnus Brodén

The difference between having snowshoes or not.
Photo; Magnus Brodén


To the rescue!
Once down it proved hard to get back up again!
Magnus Brodén
Photo; Boel Engkvist
Photo; Boel Engkvist



























The further we got, the worse the snowquality became! And at one point there was just no more going without snowshoes. Both Olli and I had to go down on all fours and crawl our way forward, much to the delight of the others! Inevitably that lead to some clowning around and I must confess this hike was far from the most tactical I had ever done. Every living thing for kilometers around us must have heard us. We did find tracks, but most were too old to identify. A few were still recognisable thought and at one point Olli discovered even some wolverine prints, along with lynx, hare and moose. Very close to the place where the next photo was taken, we spotted a place where most likely a sk. ripa (Lagopus) had had its lair.































Boel Engkvist


After a few hours we came back to the cabin, since it was getting dark and we were getting hungry.
Despite all the close contact with the snow I was surprised to find my woolpants still being dry whereas other pants were clearly showing that they were wet!
At the cabin Lee was about to prepare dinner and while he claimed the little kitchen as his domain, the beehive came to life again; people talking and laughing, Irish music playing (gotta love smartphones, bluetooth and small speakers....... or not), folks bustling about or whittling. Despite all the noiciness I was glad I had come. I had needed this.
After a very good dinner (chili/beanstew) and a beer I was feeling quite content, but still jumped on the bandwagon, when a nightwalk was proposed. We took one of my lanterns and headed out into the crystalclear night. It was close to fullmoon, so not pitch black, but in between the trees the lantern proved quite handy at times. I was planning on stepping onto a big stones being revealed by the melting snow only to see that it was a large puddle on the edge of a stream of meltwater!

Johan Kriga

Magnus Brodén


The rest of the evening we pretty much sat in front of the open fireplace, talking and Boel singing and playing on her guitar. By 21:30 my sleepinghabits started kicking in and aparently my jawning "inspired" others to start thinking about a good night's rest too.
Unfortunately that was not meant to be for some of us. Some of us were noisily reminded by others that those others slept rather well


And when morning came it was time to pack up, clean up, say goodbye and head home again, but not before we had the chance to once again taste Lee's culinary skills; breakfast in the form of kolbullar (pancakes with bacon and lingonberry marmelade). A dish suited for the circumstances!


Afterburner;
In hindsight there has to be some geartalk and there are several things I would like to address; first of all a big thank you to Lee for handing out some strange looking Moraknives and Olli for giving me a small version of a Mora Classic. I have several small knives and this one makes a great addition to that collection.
Back to the knife Lee handed out. As I said it is a Mora, but one that I had never seen before. It appears to be a sk. beteskniv or bateknife. I don't know where he got them from, but he figured they might make nice projects for rehandling or something. 
Then there is my backpack; a 1942 US Mountain Division framed backpack. I never really tried it before, but remembered not liking the frame too much (with an ampty pack). Fully loaded however it rides very comfortably, even though I only tried it for a few 100 meteres at a time.
There was no need to really use my Garberg birthdaygift, but it was with me for the first time, so the first memories have been attached to it! Hope many more to come.
My 1952 Finnish down sleepingbag..... I still haven't figured it out. Rectangular with one long zipper along a long side. No other openings. Am I supposed to completely disappear in it? It is rather cramped too, but for cabinuse quite adequate.
And maybe I should redye my anorak with a hint of olive, just to blend in more?


Anyway, I am glad I got to go out and hang out with this gang.
You people are lifesavers!!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A birthday very much to my liking!

Last weekend, sunday 13th, marked the passing of my 48th birthday and since it was the only day off in a 10 day workingperiod I wanted it be well worth my time. So I invited the members of our outdoorgroup. What better day to spend a birthday with friends? Well, I figured out in the open with some hot food would be real nice and we could do that at the charcoal kilnsite.
The saturday before I drove up to the location to see how the road in was, because of a passing storm and snowfall in the days/weeks before. I also brought the dogs to walk them there. Y'know 2 birds with one stone and all.... The way in did not go entirely as planned. The road was covered in thick, fluffly snow, making it feel as if I was driving through whipped cream. No footing or traction at all and in one curve, a very slight right one going equally slightly up hill the car just went its own way. At a very slow pace it just slide straight ahead, right into the ditch, no matter what I did. So there I was; stuck. With 2 dogs in the back and no tools. Nothing but a wooden beam. On a narrow road. Goddamn! So I set to work with that beam, using it both as a shovel and board to drive out of the ditch. After much shovelling, spinning, swearing, more shovelling, spinning and swearing I eventually got out! Ever so gently I proceeded toward the kilnsite, parking the car, walking the dogs and enjoying the scenery and silence.



Later that night we prepared all we'd need to make some high energy food. We promised those coming in a proper hot lunch and decent coffee and I was a bit nervous, because it had been a while since I made that over an open fire. Unfortunately some were unable to attend, but the vast majority did show up and we had a good time. Lots of (gear)talk, laughs, hot food that turned out to be very well liked and even a new member to our group introduced himself and shared some of his food as well. My wife, who had come up with our oldest daughter, had baked 2 fruitpies, traditional from the area we come from and these too proved quite popular!





But before that I was given some presents! My buddy Marcus had promised me a splitting axe, originally intended for christmas, but now as a birthday gift, Magnus gave me a personally handcarved coffeescoop. I love that kind of thing! And then Karin handed me a flat, round package, saying I'd probably smash up the gift. I was taken back a little..... smashing up a gift? Never! Until I unwrapped it; a think slice of pine, containing a huge amount of resin! That will make a lot of fatwood for the firekit(s)! But the icing on the cake was the gift Johan presented me with on behalf of all attending; A Mora Garberg! But with a black blade with my initials, the year 2019 AND the Dalarna emblem engraved in it!!
I was speechless..... How do small kids say??
Best!
Birthday!
EVER!!!



A huge thank you to all for your gifts, but you attending was the biggest gift of all!
You made this a birthday worth remembering.

Karin took the picture, showing the whole gang present!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

... and a moo-moo here... and a moo-moo there....




You all probably know "old Mc.Donalds had a farm"-song and at one point cows came into play. That also happened in my life. I got a job as a farmhand on a dairy farm! And that is exacty why my blog has been kind of dead these past 2 months. I am dead too, when I get home....
It is hard work; work I was totally unfamiliar with, but I am loving it! I like being around cows. Turns out I have a soft spot for them and by now I am pretty much used to being around and in cowshit all day. And that's no bullshit!



There is something deeply satisfying watching cows contently munching away...
During the past month or so I have experienced pretty every aspect working on a farm with livestock; the fun (wrestling with haybales) and the dirty (scraping the cows boxes and standing up to my thighs in manure for 2 hours), the joyous (witnessing calves being born and seeing them frolic about) and the sad (cows being sick, necessitating putting them down or witnessing a cesarean section, producing a hideously deformed calf. I'll spare you the details. Google schisosomus reflexus, but be warned! No pretty pictures!!) I love the diversity of tasks; from animal care to fixing plumbing or driving an old rickety tractor from a workshop back home for 2 hours on a cold, but wonderfull sunny day. Downside was the large glass window in the back was missing and I had to take bumpy backroads all the way....
And like I said, I like being around cows. I am amused to see all their own personalities, their nosyness, their pigheadedness, especially when they have to get up, when I need to clean their spot. I swear they even shake their heads at me! "No, I don't want to get up!" And there is one calf that has been born blind. I have a special place for her. Because she can't see, she is not as skittish as other calves and thus is easier to approach. When she smells me, she stretches her neck and wants to be scratched.
I also catch myself that I am constantly talking to the animals, whenever I have to move among them or are near them. I also next to always run a hand along a flank or neck, when I pass them. I think it is important to make such contact, but I noticed I do so without actually thinking about it. It happens automatically.




Just another view from the office.... Can't beat that!

And in the meantime winter decided to finally show up. It has been and still is unusually mild for the time of year (and for the first time i do not really mind), but we did have snow for christmas!