Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The grass isn't always greener on the other side...

It just might appear less brown.

Much has happened and at the same time nothing either. It has been a rough summer, full of emotional ups and downs, physical and mental trouble and that ever present issue of economics, becoming more and more pressing.

source: backpacker.com
I more often than not feel as if I am trudging up a huge sand dune, feet sinking deep in the fine sand, making no or very little progress, while the searing sun drains my strength or as if I am caught in quicksand, sinking away deeper, despite or because of my struggles.
The sands of time are running and it feels as if my life/future is slipping away like dry sand between my fingers...... which is a coincidence, since I strongly dislike sand....

I actually tried to hold on to dry sand, while on a beach last summer and no matter how hard I tightened my grip, the sand just kept running....


You may have noticed a near total lack of outdoorsy things I did myself, apart from that short week on the coast and truth be told there just was not anything to write or tell about. I simply lost interest (or heart). I still have no (lasting) job and by now have become convinced that I probably never will either, for the simple reason that a) I am not indigenous, b) to old and thus to expensive and c) am experienced and matured, which means I most likely am not as compliant as my employer would like me to be. These experiences are being shared by other non-natives I have come to speak with btw...

Taken during a trip with our guests.
On the large horse my youngest daughter...
and on the pig.... well... ;)
One of the absolute highlights was the visit of a couple of old friends. We had not seen each other since we left Holland 3 years ago, but when we met it felt as if we had only seen each other last week. The connection was still there and that felt so good after previous, less positive experiences. Sharing time with people like that, talking about real things in life, communicating on a level above the weather and social niceties really lifts the heart and mind. And I even was able to share some of my limited woodcarving knowledge with one of their daughters. This visit however did also made some other things painfully clear. When they left for home, they left behind a sense of  emptiness and loneliness, a void that can not be filled by what we have here.
We have come to the conclusion that Swedish social structures (families, friendships etc), at least in our area, are like loose sand (there's the sand-thing again), lacking cohesion. They are courteous, friendly and will help you if you ask, but will back away afterwards. They shy away from developing real relationships.
It is one of the cultural and social differences from what we are used to and one with which we struggle, ever since we came here. Again, this is confirmed by other non-natives and indeed by some natives as well.

I even caught myself wondering if we should just go back, but looking around, I realized that we can not. We could never adjust to the rushing concrete jungle again, if we ever did.

So...........
That means keep going and trying new things, finding new ways, continue probing for a hole in order to break the deadlock.

For now I'll be busy, thank God, with our charcoal kiln and harvesting potatoes again. At least that might yield some things to show for and talk about and give a sense of purpose...



Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smog in Dalarna!

One leaves the city, moves to a very rural area in Sweden to enjoy peace, quiet and fresh air.... and now we have smog!! And not just a little bit....

I wrote about the large forest fire near Sala yesterday and as of yet they are still struggling to get it under control, allthough the circumstances have improved much! The weather is playing along quite nicely, sending rainshowers and holding back on wind and heat. Now the firefightingcrews have gotten reinforcements in the form of firefightingplanes, coming from France and Italy. Good to see some international cooperation, but it did take very long for the planes to get here. Maybe a Nordic cooperation with all its forests might be a better solution.... but that's up to the politicians...
Due to the enormous amounts of smoke the planes appearantly can't get airborne, which brings me to the smoke around here. There still lies a vail of smoke over our region, but last nights rain made things a bit worse.
Around midnight we were awoken by a rolling thunderstorm, but when we looked out the window there was something missing.... There was no wind and no rain! Just huge amounts of lightning and an occasional really, rolling thunder. Looked like a paparazzi photo shoot... It was a strange sensation, but as we were watching the missing elements were added. Unleashed is actually a better word, for they entered the scene as if they had been held back, restrained.... Suddenly the trees almost bend over, gusts of wind whipping through the leaves and the floodgates of the heavens opened up. We looked at it in amazement, thinking we had seen it all, but then the storm stepped up a bit, sending in more wind, more lightning and even more rain! I have never seen anything like that! We could only make out the horse stable across the street, because it had a light on.... It was a hypnotic sight, awesome and a bit frightening too. And then it all went silent at once..... restarting about a minute or 2 afterwards; the eye had passed! The rain lashed against the livingroom window as if someone was using a gardenhose, despite the 1 meter deep overhang right above it. The gravelroad had turned into a waterstream, our roof into a waterfall and the trees were dancing wildly. My thoughts went to the very large birchtrees on both sides of the house. I shuddered thinking what would happen if one of them would came crashing down in the wrong direction... The weather never ceases to amaze and fascinate me...

In the morning I actually expected to see some damage, but apart from some branches on the ground the world was the same as before, only a lot more wet. I had thought that wind and rain would sweep the air clean, but the now very high levels of moisture in the air and the low hanging clouds were actually trapping the smoke at low levels.
Eyes, nose and throat are irritated and I feel as if I have a cold.

Yesterday afternoon


A satellite-image my wife found on FB. We are roughly inside the circle. As soon as the wind changes even slightly to the south we're in the middle of it...


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Sweden's largest forestfire in modern history!

Right now there is a huge forest fire raging in the Swedish province of Västmanland, close to the city of Sala. It has been raging for 5 days now and it still is out of control. It has been classified as the largest forest fire of modern Swedish history and as a matter on national level.
Many have been affected by it, either by being forced to leave their homes or are being about to. Unfortunately there have been casualties too; one dead and one severely injured.
I watched a live-interview of a man, who was about to be evacuated, but could not get himself to leave yet. How miserable must he be, and others like him, to stand there, watching the flames draw nearer, knowing that you can not save your house and possessions and only can wait untill it actually happens...

Our thoughts and prayers are with all those involved....

source; svt.se
The fire-area is at this moment, tuesday 2014-08-05 14:45 about 10x15km large and it is heading for larger urban areas, like the town of Norberg, which is directly in the line of fire. Literally. As it looks right now more than 4000 people are awaiting evacuation at any moment now. It is spreading at a pace of 2km an hour with no end in sight. We are shrouded in a thick fog of smoke right now and are staying inside with everything closed. It's hard to breath out there...

Some earlier images from social media;



Sources;
www.svt.se
www.svd.se
www.dn.se
www.sverigesradio.se etc.

Information by the public media is available, but information from official sources is scarce or hard to locate.

Yesterdayafternoon we were treated with some spectaculair cloud- and colourdisplays, as the smoke was blown across the sun. My son compared it to some scenes in the movie "War of the worlds" and I must admit the atmosphere surely did match that; Surreal, apocalyptic and the woodsmoke smell sure did it part to contribute to that.
The day started sunny and with clear skies. In fact so clear that we could not remain at the lake we went swimming in, because it was way to hot in the sun. When we came home however, things started to change quite rapidly. I guess the wind changed at higher altitudes and large plumes of, what turned out to be smoke were blown into our area. It went dark all of a sudden, but we did not smell anything... yet.


I climbed onto the roof of our house to have a clear view over the trees and I was shocked by the view!!
this is 80 km away!


My son, oldest daughter and I headed out to the lakeside  to watch this spectacle in full view and colour, which neither of both can be transmitted through the images.
The sky was red, orange, light and dark grey, yellow, blue and even a bit greenish. It was creepy. A developping thunderstorm within the smokeclouds made it even worse! No rain, just thunder and horizontal lightning and heavy windgusts all the time



This image does come closest to some of the actual colours...
I have never experienced anything like this. None of us have and it does make us feel a bit uneasy, to say the least. In all honesty I have to admit that the whole BOB-thing (Bug Out Bag) start to make sense to me. I always felt that we had nothing to worry about here. A very calm geological and atmospheric place; no earthquakes, risk of flooding or otherwise threatening stuff around and I felt quite safe. Sage enough to not consider a BOB.
This event makes me think twice. I took a closer look at our area and a forest fire, not even of this magnitude, could quite easily reach our doorstep, making an evacuation (bugging out, hence the term BOB) necessary. There's loads of trees and high grass all around us, both right up next to our house.
The necessary mix of circumstances; extreme drought, extreme warmth, high winds and a densy wooded area, are also applicable to our area and all it takes is one spark, one lightning strike or one (careless or deliberate) idiot to create another inferno.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Slaughtering a rabbit - The complete NOOB-way.



On friday morning we were treated to a very special gift by our red cat. Normally the and his buddy bring home mice, voles or an occasional bird, but not on friday.....
He dragged home one complete young rabbit! Don't know how he did it, but he dragged the animal through the catdoor into the hall. He barely fits through there himself! It looked like he had bitten through the animals throat and suffocated it, since there was the only wound I could find. And, like with the jay a while back, I took the opportunity to teach myself a lessen; how to slaughter a rabbit. Never did it before. Heck, never even witnessed it being done before!
All I had was a handfull of book- and internetwisdom. Time to get a bit of fieldpractice..... Unfortunately I could not get to it right away, due to some pressing "domestic tasks", so I hung the carcass in the (relatively) cool cellar untill the afternoon.

WARNING!
The following images could be described as "graphic"..... 

So..... here it goes.....
The first thing I did, was hang the animal upside down on the facade ladder so the blood could run down. I also removed the head, so the blood could drip away. It had already started to become thick and dark, so I left it like that for a while.
On youtube I saw someone use nails to hang the animal from, but did not see exactly how. I figured some hooks through the legs between sinew and bone would do the trick too. I had to hang it low, because I am not quite capable of reaching over my shoulders right now.

After half an hour I grabbed my knife, put on some whimpy latexgloves and got busy. I have to admit I thought it was no where near as easy as it looks, but I'll put that down to a total and utter lack of experience in this matter.
I saw the guy in the video make circular cuts in the hind legs and pull down the fur, exposing the meat and so did I.... Only I think I cut too deep or something, because when I tried removing the fur, the animal came of the hooks and landed in the below standing bucket with head and blood. What a mess!
I then continued opening the fur on the belly and trying the cut around the anus in order to pull off the skin in its total. The animal was not completely cooperative anymore due to rigor mortis, which had set it in. I was also surprised by the toughness of the membranes.... or I did not do a proper sharpening job on the knife. After some fiddling I was able to remove the skin, pulling it down in one piece. I did not save it this time.... I did study it though.. A funny thing, such a hide. Feels real slippery. I tried scraping off some of the membranes with my knife, but could not. They moved around with the scraping. I guess you'd have to fix it in one place in order to do it properly...


the black one, Eddy, was with me the entire time........
....such an interesting and delicious smell......
Maybe I made some wrong cuts, but while doing so, the intestines already came bulging out. so that was the next thing I did; removing them.
Now that proved to be even more tricky!! I knew I had to keep the intact in order to not spoil the flesh, but how to get them out? I always figured they were.... well... loose in some way. Wrong! It took quite some slicing and cutting and more fiddling to get them out. It was cool to see the organs in place and it was quite easy to identify what's what, but I did not know a (hare's) liver was that big!! I did manage to ruin the heart, though... I was wondering for a while how the get the final piece of in intestine before the anus out, but I figure I might as well pull it. I could easily identify it by the droppings that were in it. I pulled and behold! Out it came with no trouble at all... One thing I was uncertain of was the bladder and I still haven't quite figured that one out, so those with experience... Enlighten me, please! 



After I had cleaned the carcass I rinsed it and all the tools, before starting to cut off the flesh. That was meant for the cats, since they caught it and brought it home. Well, at least one of them. I also felt that they should have decent food, whenever possible (not that horrible, grain filled dry crap you buy at the store) and it appeared they appreciated my way of thinking!!

To them the spoils of "war"....



After my thanks for this lesson I left the remains in a far corner of our little piece of land. I am quite sure there are animals around that will appreciate the offer.


Ohh and a small word of advice; do not wear sandals on bare feet. It is a very uncomfortable feeling having blood dripping between your toes... Or at least I thought so.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Don't you just love summer??

I most certainly do.... or do I?

source; svt.se
Just now I was looking out my livingroom window and saw a vague mist hanging in our valley. Everything smells like smoke all day already. The reason? A forestfire about 85km to the south from here. That has started on thursday and is, untill now saturday 18:30, still not under control. So what, you might think... A long way away. Well, we in our region have the highest forestfire risk classification now too; a 5E, meaning very high risk and extremely dry and living in a heavily wooded area.... Yeah, that does make me a little nervous. I know it doesn't compare with the fires one regularly sees in the US or in Australia for instance, but still... I have no experience with anything like this what's however, so have no idea of what to expect in case it might happen here.
We were up at the kolmila today and everything is as good as ready for it to be lit. The preset date is august 30th, but that may have to be postponed, unless the weather is to change and the predictions for the next 2 weeks are not good. Not good as in continually hot, dry and breezy.... Looking at the vegetation it will take more than a summer downpour to remedy this.... much more. Even the grass of our lawn crackles when you walk over it....
Which by the way is swarming with forest ants.... They have become a plague this year. They are everywhere and in vast numbers. Sitting in the garden is no fun right now. Not that it was anyway, since we are having some trouble with flying vermin too. Nope, not mosquitoes. See hardly any of them. No, they are a bit bigger; flies and above all wasps. They are quite abundant this year too and today I found out why they are even more abundant in and around our house. When I climbed up the roof to look around the valley I was suddenly surrounded by a good number of agitated black/yellow striped stinging bugs. I was standing right on top of their nest, beneath the ladder, under the rooftiles.
So..... Taking into account that we had very un-Swedish-like high temperatures during our vacation, spoiling that one a bit (if I wanted those I'd have moved to Spain!), inescapable warmth, bugging, biting, bloodsucking bugs.... and noisy summer guests.
Well, at least there are hardly any ticks either, so that is a good thing.... One good thing...

But there is ANOTHER good thing about summer; it's end! In a month time the meteorological autumn begins, a season which will give us those wonderfull autumncolours and harvests.... if there are any leaves left on the trees by then that is and will also give us cool days and colder nights. And then it will not be long until that other, silent, serene and bright season begins; winter! Just hope it'll be more of a winter than the last one....

But first we'll have the richess of autumn....

A visit to the Gränsfors bruk smithy

the first thing is saw in the museum....
Because I do not want to call it a factory...

But before we took a look at the smithy we went to the axemuseum that is just in front of it. At first it looks like an ordinary house and at one time it most likely was, but now...... It is an old tools- and above all axeheaven!! There are literally axes all over the place! Dozens! Hundreds!! On the walls, on the floors, in bins and in heaps....
Some very unusual ones, too.
stone axes






After the museum we wanted more heavy metal and we went to the smithy itself. Through the factoryshop one gets access to the smithy and all it takes is putting on a reflective vest, so one is recognizable as a visitor. Then you can go around the premises by yourself, taking a look at the place in the pace you pretty much want. Some common sense and courtesy are of course desirable.
The workshops themselves have a laid back atmosphere. There is no high workingpace, no stress. They take their time with what they do, frequently checking and adjusting. Though machines are of course used, much old fashioned handwork is still required. They even take their time explaining what they do, how they do it and why. Answering whatever question regarding the production you might have..

a smith's workingarea

a smith at work
Finesharpening


Hardening....

adding shafts...

After the "tour" we went to the shop. It was hot (Did I mention that previously???) and they had icecream there. Of course they sell the products there too and while the others were savouring their icecreams I feasted my eyes on the Gränsforscollection. I had no intention of acquiring anything though...... untill I laid eyes on the corner with second choice articles. There were shafts and sharpening stones of Gotlands sandstone, but all with small defects, which are actually mostly of a cosmetical nature; misalignment, ugly grain, things like that. I got myself a 70cm shaft and a sharpening stone for the mindblowing price of 70kr.... total! For the 20kr the shaft cost me I can have a go and rehandling an axe myself without the fear of goofing up!

And then........ Christmas came early!!
I was looking at some axes and hatches, hands on of course, and somehow I kept ending up with the Vildmarks yxa in my hands. I noticed movement in the corner of my eye and a familiar, gentle voice saying :"Take it..." "No, I can't", I replied.... "Go on. Take it", said the voice again. "No, we can not", I replied again... "Yes, we can", the voice said again and I looked into my wife's eyes. Every good husband knows he has to do as his wife tells him to..... right?? So it followed me home, my very own Vildmarks yxa with booklet, bought at its birthplace....


It couldn't get any better, the perfect ending for a great week.
We went home......

Friday, August 1, 2014

When days start bad.......


...... they might end up like that..........

But today was not such a day.
Well, it did start of pretty lousy. There was this one fly.... Just one fly..... in a sweltering hot sleepingroom. And that damn fly managed to do something unproportional to its size; wake up an entire family and get them out of bed before and just after sunrise! That little, pesky, buzzing..... critter kept on annoying everyone by landing on or around our faces until we were all awake and up. I just before 05:00, the rest shortly after. After another uncomfortably warm night we were all in a less then good mood. Despite that we tried to see the sunny side of things..... Quite literally too, actually.

We enjoyed the early morning freshness, opened every window and door we could find in an attempt to get the heat out of the house. And let's be honest, early summermornings can be quite enchanting!


For this day we had planned to go and see one of the ancient forests in the region, the Vällingsjö urskog. It is said to be untouched by human industrial activities, meaning no logging has been done there since the 30's and many of the trees are old, up to 300 years. I've never experienced such a forest, so I just wanted to go there. Initially I had planned going by myself and in hindsight I think I should've.
Since our hosts told us that Sweden's second highest waterfall, Västanåfallet, is situated on the way to Vällingsjö it was an obvious site to visit too. We set out early and arrived at the waterfalls just after 08:00 and the temperatures were already rising considerably. The site itself is quite nice and the surrounding area is reported to be likewise, but just the climb up, alongside the waterfall, left us all bathing in sweat. The fall itself should be quite impressive during the snowmelt or after heavy rains, but now it had died down to a trickle. I guess the drought and warmth caused that.





We kept the visit short, before moving on to Vällingsjö.
Arriving at the scene 2 major problems surfaced. Due to the heat only I was dressed for the occasion. The rest of the family attended in a much more summerly fashion, not the most suitable for the terrain really. The added bonus of the most forest ants per square foot I have ever seen did not make things more appealing and the aggression they showed against the expedition members in short pants and soft shoes meant a quick end to the ancientforestexpedition.....
On our way out I wanted to stop at one spot to take some pictures and to deal with my disappointment in solitude. That nearly cut the already short vacation even shorter! I was approaching the edge of a small lake to take a look and some pictures, when suddenly the ground gave way and my right leg disappeared into the ground. I was caught totally off balance and my fall was only broken by my groin hitting the surface, but after my right elbow had taken the biggest part of the blow...... sending that directly into my shoulder.... Yep, the one that already did give me quite some trouble.....

Me, directly after the incident
 The following image is the result of me taking a picture, focussing, pressing the releasebutton and sinking through the ground at the same time...
shot at the moment of impact!

what I intended
<----
what actually happenend
                          ---->





 

After this episode we tried to keep up our spirits and looked for alternatives to do or see, but the excessive heat in the car made short notice of any other plans...... Via a small detour we headed back to the cabin and enjoyed the rest of the day in a relaxed manor with books, some sewing or listening to some music. Which was just as well, since it was our last day and the day after meant a more than 4 hour drive home in this heat.