Sunday, July 17, 2016

A quirky Dutchman showing the way....

While at work, I work with refugee teenagers that came here on their own, I often look at the guys and wonder:"How the hell do they get through the day, each day, every day?" They have nothing to do, next to nowhere to go to, no family, little friends, very limited resources and loads and loads of time....... and a continuesly turning and grinding mind.... There's tv, there's the internet, but seriously... how much time can you spend in front of a screen in your room before going stark raving mad??
Last autumn I introduced scale modelling to them. Building plastic scale models, just to pass time and do something creative. It was a huge success. Of the anticipated 4-5 kids that I figured were interested, I ended up doing sessions several hours long, with up to 14 kids and I had to pry knife and glue from their hands late at night.
So I figured I should try something like that again. Like that, as in "getting them away from a screen and do something". And since Sweden is comprised of woods for more than 50% these days (55% according to some sources) I figured I'd introduce them to the great outdoors, the greener side of Sweden. And there was a catch, well more than one actually.... For next to none of them had really seen the woods, other than from the sidelines; through the window of a vehicle or next to the road. So a number of them were scared or at least very wary of that great, mystical world behind that green wall outside their bedroom window. Another catch was the total lack of proper equipment, meaning no decent shoes and clothes, let alone gear like backpacks or some such. This meant finding a way and a location for them to take it all in in a relaxed and comfortable manor. The location was being handed to us, by being able to use the local scouting groups facilities, the way I had to provide.
I have been making plans and gathering information for these last few weeks now and I created a sort of handbook that we could use. Because there was another, sneaky catch; most of the info provided was written in adult Swedish, often too hard for the boys to understand. It had to be plain and simple Swedish. So that meant a lot of searching, rewriting and translating too. But in the end I came up with a great handbook. Great because they can read and understand it, it has all the essential ingredients and topics with explanatory images, it did not become a 10-volume encyclopedia and best of all; they thought it was great and above all useable. So did some of the staff, so I am quite proud of that achievement. Great in another aspect, since even I (re)learned a thing or two.

A few days were planned ahead, where I would take those interested out and as those dates grew nearer I was getting more nervous. Had I thought of everything? Did I take all the necessary precautions and steps and how would I do, teaching and showing a group of teens/young men? After all this was an absolute first for me, too.
I need not have worried. A small group showed up, just 4 of them, but they were motivated and looking forward to it. Some backed down, because they were uncomfortable with the idea and others because of pressing arrangements elsewhere, like summerjobs. And there were those who tagged along on just one of the days too.

I also took them to show them "my world"...
And we did well if I may say so. We talked about things like the Swedish allemans rätten (everyman's rights), flora and fauna, some first aid like insectbites or injuries, how a simple mishap can turn into a serious situation and what to do when that happens. We even had some geartalk, having me showing my things to them, telling them what I thought are basics and essentials. We did a 3-day "course", which included foraging (loads of blueberries being thick, ripe and juicy) and at the end of that we prepared food over an open fire. Not just a barbecue, but food including potatoes and vegetables. I was planning on doing a banana-dessert, but all those vanished, before we even got to the food cooking part. Which incidentally included how to build a fire, which means we have to make one and how to use them.

All in all a very successful introduction, leaving everyone involved feeling very content.
I am most certain that we will have a part 2 and hopefully many hikes. The ones who accompanied me were already asking me about camping, staying out for a night and things like that. I was able to show and teach them a good deal, they all kept and read their handbook and during the talks and discussions I learned a great deal about them too. It felt great to hear that they felt at ease out there, since it is a vastly different environment then what they are used to and I noticed they also "suffered" from that inevitable effect a forest has on most; they fell quiet and relaxed, being at peace for those hours we were out there. It was a total success in that I managed to take away their initial fear, wariness or anxiety, so that they could enjoy themselves.I opened up to them and they opened up to me, which meant we could pass information back and forth and listen to each other. Because we were a small group, we could focus on each other and the subjects at hand without distraction. But most important of all them could relax for a few hours and we simply had fun.
Unfortunately privacy regulations prohibit me from showing the good times we had.
I feel honored to have had them with me........ and I am very much looking forward to taking them out with me again.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Recyclo Patio

There is not much stand still here at Casa Chaos. Apart from the bee business we of course keep busy with other things too. It never really gets boring around here.
For one I built a patio! OK, I had help.... We urgently needed a place to hang out in the garden. It can't be all work, no play. Keeping priorities straight 'n all that. I have been gathering quite a lot of materials here, most of them for free and/or discarded by others. The frame is made up of transports pallets, which I collected from a store, selling outdoor stuff like swings, trampolines and such, run by a Dutch couple. The deck is made out of the planks I saved, when I cut up a large amount of redundant potato crates. The pavilion I got real cheap, when someone wanted to get rid of it and the pallet bench with cushion has pretty much the same story.

A day of screwing around (literally) and we had a nice place to sit and hang out. The camouflagenet has been lying around for years, since no one wanted to buy it of me. So why not use it?
And that investment of time almost immediately paid off, because on the second day after this job was done, we could welcome a guest from the Netherlands. An old colleague from our police time, whom we had not seen for more than 16 years. It was nice to chat about things and people from a shared past. Made me realise how lucky we have become with this place we call home now, how we have grown as people (mostly old...-ish...) and how perspectives and preferences have shifted and changed.

Putting on some man-perfume
And since the weather remained fair that week we also tested the patio under barbecuing circumstances. It held! But we do have an ant infestation and despite trying every trick we knew of, we could not get rid of them. I hate to admit it, but we used non environmentally-friendly means... After being bitten and sprayed upon with acid regularly it quickly stops being a mere nuisance.
But why stop at that? After the B(eehives) comes C(hickencoop) and a D for dogproofing the backyard. That means building a coop and fencing in a substantial part of our little patch of earth.
The floor of the chickencoop is ready. Again using pallets as a base on top of stones at the corners and central resting points. I closed up the floor by screwing salvaged planks from other pallets in order to be able to insulate it later on.

The summer so far has been reasonably sunny, dry, windy but not really warm. Not much of swimming weather. However the lakes are at a low. There's all 20-30cm broad yellow band around the shores, where the reeds usually would have been submerged. The streams around here are shallow too and we constantly go from normal forestfire risklevels to high and back again. That's when the rain, mostly as days with showers, have passed. Then the sun comes out, the wind picks up and within a few days the levels go up again. We had a grassfire due to lightning strike nearby, but that was dealt with when the rain came pouring down.
These conditions favor plant growth and everything is lush and green. We had a bloomexplosion some weeks ago, just at the beginning of summer. Everything was filled with flowers, even species that usually do not bloom together did this year and with an intensity we had not seen before. Of course where there are much flowers (food) there are many insects and we are seeing numbers of butterflies, bumblebees and other flying and crawling insects that match the colorful abundance. Unforunately wasps, mosquitos and ticks are thriving too. Our cats and dogs are covered in them and I had to pick 3 of of myself already as well. Checking everyday to see no red rings showing....
Our garden is thriving too. Well, at least we think we are doing quite well this first serious gardening year. The potatoes are growing well and blooming prolifically (quite surprised by the beauty of its flowers in mauve and white), the kale and cabbages are not being devoured by pests (yet) and the combination planting seems to work as we are generally not experiencing any pest problems. The only plants lagging behind are the beans, peas, leeks and salad. Those 2 plantbeds are not doing well in general. The soil is very compact, heavy and rock hard when dry, so we really need to add loads of compost to those, just to loosen things up.
The tomatoes and peppers in the greenhouse are not growing really well either, but we suspect that that is more our doing. We need to water those much more. I have underestimated the warmth AND the evaporation in the greenhouse. The latter is being caused by leaving the doors open during the day, so bees can go in and pollinate, but it also means a lot of air movement.
As for the greenhouse itself, I am not impressed by it. The overall use seems quite alright, but the quality of the material, especially the foil, seems inferior. It had a roomy fit over the frame from the beginning, but the warmth of the sun and the weight of the rain has stretched it even more and now it is just saggy. It covers the frame loosely, bellowing outward when it is windy and sagging dangerously under the weight of collected rainwater after a severe shower. Upon inspection it turned out the seams attaching the velcro to the foil had started to tear as well. Not impressed at all here!!
Well, I guess that if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.........
Investing in that grass- and weedtrimmer was a good thing. We can now say we have the garden "under control", meaning we can pretty much keep up with the weeding and cutting of both the vegetable garden and the "lounge area".

All around us berries are ripening already; blue- and gooseberries, black currants, forest- and regular strawberries. All of them round, juicy and ready to just pop into your mouth. The rowan are laden with berries too and according to locals these are all signs of a harsh winter. We will know.....

And then.... circumstances forced us to do a drastic thing. We decided that we needed to move one of the top bar hives with its population to our place, because the location it was in is likely to be inaccessible to us in the nearby future. Given the size of the hive and its delicate contents it was a challenge and after a very long and very slow 30 minute drive we came home, put the hive in its new place and had no problems during the entire transfer or immediately after. How the bees will fare in the near future we will have to wait and see. I'll get back to this transfer in more detail at a later date, but soon.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Bee that as it may

As said today was the second day of operation "Bee home". We were going to move the bees at our place. Now there were some differences when compared to the operation yesterday. For one the bees were lighter and seemed smaller. Another one was that the bees turned out not to be as friendly as their dark hued cousins yesterday. Not overly aggressive, but quite a bit more defensive. Yet still easily within the limits of the acceptable and once we had done our thing at the hive, they very quickly calmed down and went back to business. A third difference was their numbers. This hive had much less occupants than the one before. In total maybe up to 60%, but that is a rough estimate. Three of the frames were unused and on one of these the bees had only just begun to build cells. On the other combs there was not all that much brood or pollen, but quite a bit of honey.
We also noticed that the bees had built 2 very large cells, which had hatched. A new queen?? There were also more places where the bees had gone wild building; large extensions on the combs, both in depth and around the frames. They had had too much room apparently.
Needless to say that today's operation went faster, both due to less work and knowing what and how to do it. We decided to feed this population the recommended 1:1 ratio sugar water just to give them a boost. Our hive now houses 7 top bars + 2 empty ones. I will keep a close look on their development, hoping they will bring in more pollen.
We had a good scare as well. When we were more than halfway through the frames we discovered a large dead bee at the bottom of the box... Oh dear, not the queen?? However on the next frame my wife, once again, spotted a very large bee and the dead bee turned out to be a drone, judging by the relatively short abdomen and the large eyes.... Other then that we pretty much followed the same routine as before. This time our oldest daughter had the camera, yet she didn't dare come near. We once again saw bees hatching and the wax in this population was much darker and tougher.
So we are keeping our fingers crossed.

As you can see, a lot less bees....
Yesterday's box was filled to the brim.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Let it bee.....

All visual footage was done by my father in law

Today was a great day.... a grand one. really.
Today would see us, my wife and me, moving the bees from the first box with frames into a top bar hive. A very first for me, but a very first regarding handling bees in general for my wife! And we did well!!
The bees turned out to be very gentle, not a single act of aggression towards us, despite us handling them, disturbing them, upsetting them and moving them. It, after all, is quite a large operation with a lot of direct handling and a lot of impact on them.
I'll describe the events as they happened as chronologically as possible;
It started by placing the boxes, containing the bees and their framed cells as close as possible to the entrance of the top bar hive (tbh), so that they could get used to the flight direction and location of the entrance. Quite important, since they memorise that location and focus on it. We placed the box there last friday late at night and left them alone over the weekend. They got going early saturday morning, bringing home mostly pollen. A good sign, since that means they have young to raise, which means there is a queen laying as well.
Today the first thing we did, was look at Johans clip again (see the previous post) and we prepared. We put all the necessary tools ready at hand; goosefeathers (no brushes since these are too coarse!), a spray bottle with water (no smoke!), hive tools and a small saw to cut the frames. Then we put on the suits and keeping the citronella-tip in mind (which says using citronella essential oil will make the new home more attractive to the bees), we used a fresh leaf directly from such a plant. I rubbed the inside of the hive and follower boards gently with the leaf.
With a bit of a pounding heart (mine at least) we approached the box and we positioned ourselves at either end of the box and tbh. We clearly decided who would do what in advance. My wife would lift the top, I would take out a frame, we would brush back the bees into the box, she would close up and we would prepare the frame and the top bar in the shade, a few meters to the side) The first 2 frames/bars would be dealt with this way, so the bees would have something to go home to, once we would start moving them over.
Things went rather smooth from the beginning really. The first 2 frames were pretty much empty, apart from some cells being filled with mostly pollen and a few cells with larvae. Despite bees flying all over the place, there were no signs of aggression at all. We both felt at ease, yet focussed all the time and we pretty much copied Johans way of doing things.
However we were in for some surprises!! The first one happened, after we had removed the third frame.... Bees were hatching!! We witnessed the "birth" of 3 bees! What a truly remarkable happening. We watched them, chewing their way through the cap and out of the cell, their eyes light colored and their wings still pressed to their body.... Amazing. And what a privilege...

After this things got real interesting!
The rest of the frames was packed with bees, lots of capped brood and honey, quite a lot of pollen and uncapped honey too. Even some uncapped brood.
We lifted a frame, held it over the tbh, keeping an eye on it, taking care none of the bees fell off. We brushed the hive bees off and the flying ones would find their own way to the new hive. And then, with frame 5, surprise nr.2; my wife spotted the queen!! She was quite striking; large and very dark. We moved her over to the tbh, gently brushed her off and now we knew for certain where she was.
After that we followed the same procedure with every frame, doing the last 3 frames in one go, so we could close up the tbh as soon as possible. When lifting the empty top bars we regularly were surprised by the bees yet again. They would flock to the bars and would start to build combs right away! At least I presume that's what they were doing...

The steps, shown in images;
Step 1, attaching the frame to the bar with screws;

Step 2, cutting the wax and threads from the frame,

Step 3; cutting the frame at the top, so it comes loose,

Step 4; cutting the comb to shape using a follower as a template

It becomes easier with every frame, yet the whole operation took us somewhere between an hour and a half and 2 hours, including dressing up and preparing. No stings, no mishaps, breaking combs, but another bonus.... Honey fresh from the comb!! It had a nice, rich, intense, slightly "dark" taste... Fit for a king!!

My father in law had the honor of being the first to try....
Tomorrow we will repeat the entire operation at our place and I so do hope we will succeed equally well and that the bees here at home are equally peaceful. I think they might be, since I could cut the grass around the box with the trimmer today, while an approaching thunderstorm was rolling in....

I must say that I am quite astonished of us and proud of wife!
I did have a course in conventional beekeeping, 2 years ago, so had been near bees before. But it was no where as near as this! Johans video was a huge help for sure, but also the worth of buying and studying books has proven itself once more.
And then my wife; no sign of fear or hesitation. She remained calm and respectful, even during the last stages, which became quite lively!!
And there was the final gift of the bees; we now have something we both can do and share together: bee caretaking...

Saturday, July 2, 2016

They have come!!

Finally.... our bees have arrived!
Our very first bees; one box at our place, one box at my parents in laws place. I placed the box as close as possible to the opening of the topbarhive, so the bees will have orientated themselves before the move.
This was last night, just before 22:30... Yes, pm!!
This morning the ladies were out and about, despite windy conditions and lots of rain...
We will move them into the topbarhive next monday, when the weather will have improved and many of them will be out... hopefully.

And wouldn't you know it; as we were driving towards the place we were to collect our bees, I got a call from someone in our village. If I still was interested in bees? The old beekeeper here has a lot of his old stuff still stored in a large open shed and a swarm of bees had nested themselves there... So I'll be going there this week and will check it out.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

The year of the bee.

...or the year the bees came to us.
First there was the discovery of the bees in our garden. After I discovered the first one in the beginning of may we kept seeing them in greater numbers in the warm days after that.
Due to non matching agendas and the very fine weather early may the building of the topbar hives stalled a little, but on the 10th of may I got mail from Johan, saying he was preparing to split of bees in the beginning of june, but he needed boxes to put them into, so we could transport them here later. And I must admit that I panicked a little..... I had nothing to accommodate or transport the bees in or with! And how was I going to transfer the bees from a box with frames into a topbar hive? No idea!
That same day I got another email, saying a package had arrived at the local pickup point; a package containing 2 beekeepersuits, 2 pairs of gloves and some handtools. Yes, my wife is also getting her equipment, so she can join me. I will need her help when we transfer the bees from box with frames to topbar hive with bare topbars.
Things started to get real!!! And here's where my job came in handy once more; I opted for the easy solution and ordered boxes. They cost a little, but these might prove useful later too, if I'd need to buy more bees. Or maybe even to put a swarm in or something. Early in june we paid Johan a visit, as I documented in the blog earlier and we left the boxes with them. I am very eager to see how things have evolved from there!

And now our topbar hives are done as well. The procedure is fairly straight forward, really. We followed Chandler's directions, adapted a little here and there, mainly in measurements and availability of wood, and improvised where we saw fit. For instance we did not paint the roof, but used an old groundsheet of a caravan (trailer) tent. Now the roof is waterproof, in a light color, which should keep temperatures underneath down and there was no need to buy paint either. The roof is not completely encapsulated, just covered, so enough room for ventilation as well.
I'll try to paint them before they are going to get used. All we need to do now, is wait for the call and go and get the ladies... I am getting quite excited, I can tell you that!
The one at our place...
and the one at my parents in law's place....

Here's a video Johan, our beedealer, made about such a transfer. It'll come in very handy!
transfer from frame to topbar. Text is in Swedish, but the images speak for themselves.

Things got nasty

We have been having the most wonderfull weather lately, plant growing wise that is.
Abundant sunsine with days of copious rain and then sunshine again, followed by more rain. The grasses and fieldflowers have not been this high and abundant since we moved here and neither have the mosquitos and other flying critters. Loads of bumblebees, not so much butterflies though. Snails too. And slugs!! Big ones! Longer then a middlefinger and thicker then a thumb.
This alternation of sun and rain creates the most wonderful and magical displays of light and moisture too. Ferrytale-like skies when the sun sets or mysterious and magical banks of fog and vapor, when the sun hits it just right. Blues, reds and purples in every thinkable shade and combination. Greens, yellows and bright whites too. Add a full moon to the feast and it just gets better.... Or does it?
The night before full moon we were walking the dogs as usual and at one of our favorite places we stopped to admire the scenery and display of color presented to us. We missed a pile of fish leftovers, but Lester did not. He took a quick gulp and refused to let go of it, despite me telling him to do so. We have this "policy" that they are not allowed to eat, whatever it is they find. Lester tends to first bite and chew and then wonder if that was good for him... if he even wonders. He'll go for anything; green if he thinks it's grass (he does it with any roadside weed, even nettles) and if it moves, you can eat it as well. If it doesn't move, you can make it do so and then the previous rule applies again.
So a definite NO to food on the go.
Anyway.... The more I demanded he'd led go of that fish-stuff, the more he was determined not to do so. Even up to the point of being physically uncooperative. He actively resisted and that is something I will not tolerate from a dog. If I demand he let go, he has to let go. Period.
So I ended up wrestling him and something snapped. I don't know how and why, but I got furious and did something inexcusable, something I should not have done; I beat him. I punched him in the head, which resulted in the wife slapping me in the same location, despite the fact that my sudden and violent shift in mood and stance startled, even scared her. Don't think she has seen me that way often. That did bring me to my senses. Don't know why I got that mad. Probably the frustration on several levels, including the dogs behaviour, had gotten the better of me.
This episode made me question myself again and made me wondering if I would be a good animal caretaker at all.
It also made me wonder why I did it.... Answer; tension plus genetics. I have been feeling quite a deal of pressure lately, some self induced, some from the outside and I know that side does exist deep within me.
What caused that pressure? Well, for one thing; me. I have been wanting to do too much, to make progress too quickly (or being impatient) and I finally realised you can not have a family, a home, adults with demanding jobs, dogs to raise and train, build up a homestead (of which not everyone is equally charmed and motivated), expecting it to be up and running in 2 years. especially in this climate, where all things garden related are put on hold for up to four to six months a year AND keep everything else, like the household, running smoothly at the same time. It simply can not be done. So I have to take it down a few notches, readjust my priorities and take it easy(easier). Babysteps.... Why do I push so hard? There's this constant feeling of running out of time.... I have this constant feeling that something is about to happen, about to change and I need to be prepared or be able to provide for my family. Maybe I am going nuts, but still..... Reading all the signs.....
Mental unease for another. I have to admit that my job sometimes gets to me. How can it not? I actively and intensely interact with the guys and when all of a sudden more than a handful of them are forced to leave. It certainly leaves no good feelings. It does something to me. It also messes with the general atmosphere at work, when those guys get ripped out of the group, mostly at very short notice, and are sent off to another place and a very uncertain future. It makes the rest very unease and on edge.
Plus some incidents in the private hemisphere.... It adds up. So much is happening. Not just bad things. Good things too. I learn a great deal about gardening and we were quite surprised to find one of our neighbours willing to let us use parts of his land for raising cows. He offered it himself!
Can you imagine us having cows? That made me dive into the matter and the most suitable race for us would be an old species of domestic cows; fjällko or fjällnära ko, which are a smaller, less demanding sort of cow, which give a rich and fat milk, ideal for cheese and butter. They even handed us a copy of a map, with the useable bits of land highlighted in color!
However we decided to put all that on hold. After all we have no idea what it's like to have cattle, let alone take care of them. Obtaining them, fencing and housing are other matters and I haven't even begun to think about authorities! But it means an opening, an opportunity for later on, maybe.

In the meantime we enjoy the wondrous displays Mother Nature has to offer us, be it big or small....
And I hope you all had a great Midsommar, summer equinox or St.Jan or whatever it is you celebrate on the longest day of the year.....

Thursday, June 23, 2016

I'm a case study.....

yup.... and my case will end up in a book too, along with 8 others.
It is a book about highly sensitive men, the person doing the book and the studying is Tom Falkenstein and he founded the European centre for high sensitivity as well.
I am a man, who happens to be hsp; a highly sensitive person. That doesn't mean I am a wuss, sissy, fag or pushover. It is not an illness or mental disability. I am not broken and need no fixing. It is a character feature. It is not a label, but an understanding of who I am and why.
It means that my nervous system is a good deal more sensitive than the average person's and that I, as a result, am much more receptive for stimuli from the outside. Things like noise, light, stress, tensions etc. etc. It means I perceive the world around me on levels uncommon to the rest of the people.

Tom describes it like this:
"An innate trait found in 15% to 20% of the population, being highly sensitive means having a more sensitive nervous system than others. This means that someone who is highly sensitive is more aware than others of subtleties in their surroundings, such as noise, smells, colours, but also interpersonal dynamics, and processes this information more deeply. This level of sensitivity can be an advantage in many ways, but it can also be often a disadvantage as people who are highly sensitive feel over-stimulated or overwhelmed more quickly due to their sensitive perception. Biologists have found the trait in over 100 species, from fruit flies to primates. Dr Elaine Aron has been researching the trait and its impact on people since the early 1990s and has written a series of books on the highly sensitive person (HSP)"

Elaine Aron also has a site, of course; and yes, her books, or at least 3 of them, sit on my bookshelves ever since my therapist recommended them to me, during my recoveryfase after being burnt out. They meant a world of differences to me, that's for sure!

Anyway, the plan is to have the book ready early next year and to be published august after that.
I am quite proud to participate and I really hope it will help some guy out there..... because in our completely uncaring, heartless, emotionless, superficial society a highly sensitive man is the least wanted, the least recognised and the least understood of all and that causes a lot of problems and misery for the man in question.
Or at least that's the way I feel.....

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

when there's ups, there's bound to be downs

Life seemed to be almost idyllic these past few weeks and of course that makes me look over my shoulder nervously, seeing what fresh new hell is sneaking up on me or us....

Nope, none of that. Everything's still fine for us. Kids have had their last day of school and now can enjoy their well earned summer vacation. That however means my vacation's over. I am working full time now for at least the rest of the summer. Excellent moneywise, not so excellent timewise. That'll require some ingenuity in scheduling when it comes to gardening, projects and maintenance.

Last friday was the last day of school for our kids and this year that meant something special. Our son will be attending high school next year, so he left his current school and will be attending a new school in the city. Therefor there was a graduation ceremony and they all dressed up for that. I can now say that my son is the only one in our household who has a suit.
There he was, 15 years old, in a suit, holding his girlfriend and handing me a grade list I could only dream of in my days. He's taller than I am now, which in itself is not that much of an achievement, but still.... He learned 3 new languages in 3 consecutive years, outclasses many of his peers in their native language and is doing very well in other subjects as well.
I was and am one immensely proud dad.
After the graduation he and his girlfriend (feels like our family got bigger in a way), along with the rest of the classes, disappeared off to school for a final lunch together and a trip to Stockholm. My oldest daughter did the same, but went to another city. I'd be working for the rest of the weekend, so I would not be seeing them until monday morning.
As I went home, alone, there was this other feeling that kind of brushed aside that feeling of pride. A feeling of emptiness. After all the business and hubbub of the last days and weeks, there was this void, this silence.... this notion of my kids growing up wayyy to fast, leaving me with a feeling that something was missing. Our youngest daughter is also moving to the next stage of school life and life in general. She left behind third grade and turned 10. That means she officially no longer is a small child. We are officially out of the small children-fase!! I kept asking myself what the hell did I miss? How did they get this tall this fast? Damn it, I just took them to school the first day here in Sweden short of five years ago..... 5 years ago!.... (echo...echo....echo...). Damn...........
Instead of driving home I went to our youngest daughter's school to go and pick her up. I really did not feel like being home alone and why should she stay there, at daycare, longer than necessary? Luckily my wife could also go home earlier, probably because I showed up....

There are also other things occurring that will have a massive impact on our daily life. A solid base, where we could go to for help, a cup of coffee and a chat in out native tongue will cease to exist. It will not be long before we really will be entirely on our own. No more strings attached. No more back up. A not insignificant metal shock that one either.

And then there's always work. In my line of work you can not help but build up a connection to the guys. In essence that is part of the job. Having to see some of them go (against their will) and wishing them well on their way out, is hard. Having to empty and clean their rooms afterwards almost feels as if you are cleaning out the house of someone that died. It has that same emotional load....
It also has an immediate effect on the other guys. Some that are allowed to stay get caught in that double feeling dilemma of relief and guilt. Some, who's case is not yet settled, spend their days in growing uncertainty and unease. It brings us staff and kids closer together and pushes us further apart.

And then there was this small thing, this medical pinprick. There were some small spots discovered on my wife's back... again. The first time it was basocellular carcinoma a.k.a. skin cancer. The least dangerous form, but that word shook our world in a massive way. Much of that shock has been taken away by becoming more knowledgeable, but still......
Luckily it turned out to be a false alarm. Deep sigh of relief...

All at the same time....

It is once more a time of reflection, a time of making up the balance, of rethinking our options and of riding that emotional rollercoaster. In the light of all this, even I feel that being torn between relief and guilt. We are blessed, because we are healthy, have each other and can sustain ourselves in a place we can call our home. Guilt, because we have all that, where many do not.

And then, while we were at IKEA (yeah, I know... I know, but we took our youngest daughter there, because she wanted some time with us for herself too and she wanted to have lunch there) I spotted this sign that made me laugh and that put it all back into perspective again......
And we picked out a new couch we will be saving for..... We really need the extra space!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Förläggningstält 12

Now here's another piece of old skool, bombproof vintage Swedish military gear for you; the förläggningstält 12.

Sometimes referred to as 12 manna tält, this is a Swedish army group tent.
The 12 does not stand for how many men you can cram in there, but for the surface area, being 12m2. Getting in 12+gear would fit, albeit a bit challenging and this would get quite cozy (cramped). For us as a family, we'd have plenty of room for us, our fieldcots and the dogs as well.
The major downside of this one; its weight. Haven't weighed it yet, but I guess it would be around 40kgs all in. 15-20kgs for the cloth, 20-25 for the hardware.
A rundown of the partslist;
- the tentcloth itself in the appropriate bag
- a small bag of tentpegs + hammer
- a larger, long bag with poles and dryingrack
- a metal disk
- 4 pieces of chimneypipe
- the stove
- the stoveholder/connector to the chimney
- a clamp
- spare rope

I put up the tent, by myself within an hour, without having never even seen one in real life, but using the 20-versions handbook as a reference, to check for any damages or otherwise unpleasant issues, like mold or even rot. None of this was found. I left it out for a few days though, when it was hot and sunny. It had a bit of a musty smell to it, so I wanted to air it out. Despite sitting in the baking sun during the hottest part of the day, it did not get roasting hot inside. There is plenty of ventilation and the canvas allows for the heat to escape. One could easily live in there during the summer. I remember only too well how how it gets in nylon- and similar tents....
And then all of a sudden the weather turned and we we treated to an afternoon and night of thunderstorms and rain.... Plenty of rain... The tent proved to be watertight enough to keep dry on the inside, despite puddles forming on the top. It proved to be difficult to keep the cloth tought in wind and rain. It sagged a little, but despite the copious amounts of heavenly waters, it held good. The sagging might also be cuased or enhanced by the use of natural rope. And I do not lile the rope to extend so much to the sides either, so I will think of replacing them, shortening them and/or adding tensioners.
The next day the sun was out in force again and the temperature went up. It was nice and windy too, so the tent dried out in no time. Around the outer edge, where puddles had formed on the ground, the cloth was soaked and took a lot longer. So I "hung" that out to dry. I figured out that you can raise the walls real easy, so everything gets very well ventilated and dries really quick.

There's this neat little window in the top of the tent that can be opened from both the outside and the inside.

The stove and dryingrack

Now the erecting itself; I laid down the tent, spread it out and secured the lower rings with the pegs in place. I hooked up the disk into the o-rings around the top. I then assembled the stove/chimney, crawled under the tent and stuck the chimnet through the opening in the disk, untill the chimney lodged itself into the disc, after which I could raise the whole thing and I could work on fixing the ropes, so the tent took shape. Then I inserted the poles into their sockets in the upper corners, only to find out afterwards that they should first be inserted into the d-rings at the bottom on the inside. I also found out later that there are 2 longer ones that are supposed to be used on either side of the entrance.
I am also missing a pole or the poles to hold up the entrancecover.
I need to find a routine that makes it easier and quikcer to erect this tent, even when being alone, so I will have to repeat the exercise and also try out the stove, when I do. That will also give me the opportunity to try out how to use the space inside best.

All in all I am quite pleased with this tent. I am sure that it will serve us well.