Friday, July 10, 2020

A time for contemplation.... and testing.

Today I just had to go out. I needed time to think, time to clear my head, time to release all the bottled up frustration and anger or at least some of it.
Yesterday I got notice that I have not been accepted into university and that hit home harder than anticipated. All of the built up frustration and irritation over these last few years surfaced, sparking an anger and spite such as I have not felt it in many years. So I was in dire need of some "green medicine"! That's why I finished the pack basket yesterday, so I could give that one a test run, too.
On my way in I came across one of the "locals". Pretty big fella..

First destination was the old camp and lean-to. That proved to be an abysmal sight. It had been 2 months since I last was here and in the meantime we have had a severe drought, more than a week of hot weather, followed by a sudden change in weather bringing monsoon-like downpours and strong winds. Not a needle was left on the branches!

So I just tore the whole thing down and spread all the branches through the area. Since that is mainly spruce too, the unusually high concentration of branches should not be to obvious. After removing all of the "tiling" the main roof frame was visible and that still held! I could topple it over in one piece. If I had chosen to redo the roof, the lean-to would have been usable again.

I also noticed an unusually high amount of rowan shoots. Even 2 right in front of the lean-to! Yet there are no rowan on site. I guess birds must've "dropped" them off.

After I had removed all the twigs, branches and poles I was left with a thick carpet of needles.... where one of the new residents made itself known! Too bad you can not see the iridescent blue lines around its shields.
The poles I put upright next to a spruce and I did the same with a number of the larger branches next to another. These will make good firewood for future visits, like in winter. It can dry some more, which is needed, because when I cut a piece of bark from a birch, it was still green underneath! This piece has been cut down last autumn, has been used in my lean to, away from the soil, in sun and wind and still green. Birch never ceases to amaze me!

I did however collect the very thin pieces of bark, that peeled off as well as a thicker piece from another birch pole. I needed those for the fire.
While I was running around, scattering all the building materials, I frolicked about a bit with my anorak. I had to put that one on, since the Swedish Luftwaffe (mosquitoes) was very active. So active that even Wilma's Nordic Summer struggled to be effective.

When all the work was done it was time for some coffee. But first fire preparations had to be made. I always carve away some of the bark on the first birch branches, exposing the dry fibers beneath. It not only keeps the water inside, but quite effectively protects the wood from fire as well.

I had a bit of difficulty with the firesteel, getting the sparks to land where I wanted to. It has been months since I last used it. But it worked. And the camera fell over for no particular reason...

After an hour or 2, having cleaned up the area (and found some peace of mind), had my coffee and my lunch, I doused the fire with the remaining water I had with me, more was on the way, judging by the accumulating clouds and incidental thunderclaps overhead, I packed up my basket, deciding I would hike up the mountain/hill, a roughly 5km round trip.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

A Frankenstein backpackbasket

This project, or the idea for it, started to come together, while rummaging through my accumulated stuff. Stuff that I had saved from all sorts of places. Stuff that became redundant, left over or other people's garbage.
I had the left over frame from the LK35, a few salvaged pack baskets, a derelict Vulcan backpack. The packbasket was in a pretty bad shape. The carrying straps were damaged and had come loose from the bottom, yet I could not determine where they had been attached. The hinges from the lid were broken, badly bent and one had come off. Parts of the lid were broken, where the hinges were or had been. The closure was badly bent as was the attachment for the straps on top. And the wood was just in a generally bad shape, broken at places, dusty and bonedry.

One of the goals was to create a pack that can double as a seat during less than favourable conditions. That would mean a cushion and a water repellent cover. The original lid was far to weak to carry my weight, so I fabricated an extra, separate lid. I ended up with one that not only held the seat, but was removable as well. The extra lid spreads the weight away from the center and down the sides.
I also had to come up with a way to create a new hinge. This I made by reusing a strip of the Berghaus fabric, stapling  that along the edge of the lid. It is not the prettiest of solutions, but does the trick.
Out of a very local bit of juniper I carved a closing peg and I added a string & closure from the Berghaus to keep the loose cushion/lid from flapping while on the move.

The legs of the basket did not fit the frame very well and I ended up removing the hind ones completely and shortening the front ones, so that the basket sits level on the ground. Additional plus is that the bottom does not touch the ground, but then again nothing really does, since there's moss everywhere. The frame protects the bottom somewhat.

I also oiled the basket with boiled linseed oil. I hope to make it more weather resistant and give the wooden slats some of their springiness back. The were so dry that they cracked and probably would break quite easily. If nothing else it gives the basket a beautiful, deep colour.

During the oiling I got a good up close look again of the wooden slats and some, especially around the lower corners, gave me reason for concern. They might not break, but they were damaged and cracked. I had initially thought of making an inside bag out of redundant cloth from military puptents, but my eye got caught by 2 sheets of burlap, recently salvaged from an old kitchen sleeping bench. Maybe I could cut and sew one of these to size? Or.. maybe... I suddenly remembered having burlap sacks. Could they fit?? These sack come from my time, when I worked at the potatoe farm and used to contain seed potatoes.
When I found them, they turned out to be wet and musty, so first they had to dry and air in the sun.  
The smell of linseed oil, old wood in the sun and burlap..... Summoning some pretty powerful memories. Smells reminiscent of my grandparent's house and I recalled 3rd or 4th grade end of year summer camp (very early 80's) ; spending the night in a horse stable, sleeping on clean hay wrapped in a wool blanket, late evening excursions and a huge final bonfire.

Lo and behold!
The sacks fit perfectly! Circumference wise anyway. They are quite a bit to deep, but I just folded the excess at the bottom. Nice and cushy for my gear!
I stapled the sacks in place and added extra retainers for the lid, so that doesn't open too far and rip the hinge or staples there apart. 

As a final thing I added a carrying grip, made from the original grip. As I am horrible at tying knots I cheated by adding a wooden bead as a retainer.

The backpackbasket is done and will make its maiden voyage tomorrow!
It is being held in place by a center strap and a minor one at the top of the back.

Friday, May 1, 2020

1st of maj, a rainy day - rather green than red!

In Sweden the 1st of may is a socalled "red day", meaning a national holiday. It is a celebration for and by the working class, a day where socialists of all sorts go out and have marches. For or against what is unclear to me, really. I myself rather have a green day in order to avoid red of any kind.
It was a rainy day, exactly what I had hoped for, because I could see how the shelters held up. We had some rain and wind in the past days too, so I was kind of curious.
During the day however I noticed that my cellphone camera was acting up, messing up the focus and colours, in many cases quite severe. So I apologize for the quality of some of them. Had to touch up quite a few of them to make them somewhat presentable.

The tools of the trade for today; my Swiss gaiters and German gloves. Together with freshly polished boots these gaiters kept my feet and legs dry and I must use the gloves, since it turned last christmas that I develop an allergic reaction to spruce needles. I used these gloves too, the last time.

I dismantled the small oneman shelter and was surprised to find the inside dry! Despite being unfinished it did its job, more or less. Next time I need to make the center pole longer and the entrance higher. Now it barely reached my hips and I had to extend the front so that all of (little) me would fit inside. Raising and lengthening it makes it more accessible and would create room for movement and gear. But in times of need it would have done the job quickly.

With all that extra green laying around I figured I might as well experiment a bit with the lean-to. That too was remarkably dry on the inside, btut I figured that it it would be windy and raining the front would still get wet. So I created an awning. Or an overhang at the front that would shield the inside from both wind and rain. I also added the longest boughs to the top, plugging the holes I noticed. The overhang also drastically reduces the large dark shade, making the shelter less noticeable from a distance. Downside is that the boughs get into your face.

I took the palatka and spread it out over the boughs, gather a few handfulls of all the small twigs laying about, put mu sittingpad on top and laid down, one half of the palatka under me, the other over. It was quite comfortable and I lay there for a while, listening to the birds, the wind and the pattering of raindrops. I even managed to doze off for a while!
But for a good night's rest I would add an extra layer of the smallest twigs and a layer of sphagnum moss.

The view from the shelter when laying down in it:

After this intermission it was time for (another belated) lunch and I had initially thought of making that over an open fire. However the underground is nothing but boulders, roots, humus and moss. In many places it is hollow!
Because there was a large chance of the fire going underground when done just like that I went on the hunt for rocks to be used as a bed. Around camp nothing was to be found, but I knew that the paths, cut by the forestry machines, always have loose and fractured rocks, uprooted and crushed by the tracks on said machines. I "just" had to go and get them.
After the fireplace was in place I needed to go and gather firewood and twigs, of which there was plenty hanging from the large spruces all around me. The downside was that most were covered in lichen, which acts as a sponge when it is damp or raining..... as it had been doing. Fire preparation was key, so only the branches and twigs that readily snapped and had little lichen on them were used. Scraping away the lichen and the outer surface revealed the drier wood underneath and splitting the branches made the dry inside available. I always challenge myself to get a fire going with 1 match. Today I needed 3..... and the pattering you hear is n ot just the crackling of the fire, but rain as well.

And then... lunch!! On today's menu was Austrian gulash soup..... from a can.
For those that have such a cooking kit as I do, the trick is to stick the hook through the square eye on the side and move the eye of the hook over the second notch in the handle. That way you can handle the pot and lift it, while eating from it.
Not much later I packed up again; my greentime-quotum had been filled for today. I will make a detailed post on the shelterbuilding at a later date, so keep an eye out for that.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Tale of the Three Shelters

It was time once again to hit "the greens" again. We had an almost summerlike week, loads of sunshine and temperatures dangerously close to 20C. Then the wind turned north again and those temperatures plummeted. The sun made itself a lot less seen too. Today was supposed to be reasonably sunny with temperatures about half of what they had been. It'll get much worse, starting tomorrow.
First things first. Since it still is april, we have april showers, so an emergency shelter is setup using my plash palatka and bungees in the fashion I came up with last time out.

There is this area that last autumn has been cleared from its undergrowth in order to give the bigger trees room, so they can become even bigger toward harvesting time in a few decades. That means a lot of useful debris on the forest floor, which "allemansrätten" allows me to use. And that gave me the inspiration for today's exercise; gathering skills in shelterconstruction.

After the phase 1 shelter was erected, it was time for a phase 2 shelter; a 1-man shelter of the type I had built once, way back in the beginning of my outdoor adventures, inspired by Ray Mears. Enough talk; it was material gathering time! There were heaps of spruceboughs and small trees all over the place and I used the smaller sprucetrees as sleds for transporting a load of boughs toward the campsite.

The limitation I had set myself was to use nothing but my hatchet and so I set to work!
I erected a frame of thinner birch trees. The top pole is my length with outstretched arm and the supports are forked, so that they catch into each other and support each other and the pole. The joit can be strengthened using birch twigs. Fresh ones are best, since these are very flexible. Mine were already a few months old, so snapped from time to time. I then laid out the "ribs" of the shelter, using the thicker branches of the birches. Onto those I added the spruceboughs, which overlapped one another, creating a lattice as shown.

The entire structure was then covered using smaller boughs which I pushed into the lattice from the bottom up. That way they will act as tiles as shed water on the outside. I also did a small patch covered with moss and laced together with small birch twigs, which would create a completely closed surface.
I could not go the entire way, since time was rather limited (or I set my goals to high), but also because I had not asked for permission from the landowner to rip up all that moss, but the idea is clear I think. The smallest birchtwigs were laid across the floor inside and spruceboughs and off-cuts were spread over these, creating a layer of about 20-30cm, onto which a floormat and sleepingbag would be laid out.

By now It was time for (a belated) lunch!
I cleared a rock from its mossy blanker, carefully rolling that back, so that it could be put back in place once I was done. It also made a much more stable base for my messkit & burner.
For lunch was leftover beef&bean stew and that can be really hard to remove later on, especially if it gets time to dry up. The trick here is to use a thicker, reasonably fresh birch branch, first as an extended panhandle, of which you pound one end into a brush, using a rock or the back of your hatchet.

Then you heat up some water and as the water heats you scrub the pan with the brush end. At first this is hard and stiff, so good for scouring and scraping the caked on food, but as the water warms the brush softens and you can rinse the remaining less coarse residue from your pan. If you can add birchleaves, the warming water will release the saponin therein and you have natural detergent to boost.

After lunch it was time for phase 3; an all-natural lean-to. My first ever lean-to to be honest. And again only using my hatchet.
I found a pair of suitably spaced trees and used to roughly man length poles to shore up the top pole against those trees. I used the thicker trunks of the trees to construct a bedfloor and the thinner ends I used as ribs for the wall. I left the side branches onto these end, so that I could use these to weave together these ribs and subsequent branches. I used long and thin birch branches for weaving horizontally, creating a coherent and sturdy lattice again.

Once that lattice had been completed to my liking I started adding long spruceboughs to and through that lattice, locking the ends in place by weaving again. I worked from the bottom up, using a rooftile principle. Once these were in place I started using smaller boughs, shoving them up into the structure, again from the bottom up and again overlaying each other.
By now it was getting late, so I could not completely finish the procedure to produce a completely tight wall. I spread all the surplus smaller and thinner birch twigs over the logs lengthwise and on top of that I laid a layer of spruce twigs across those. That was topped of by the smallest of twigs and off-cuts, creating a 30-40cm thick, springy layer.

One thing I had underestimated was the amount of weight such a construction would accumulate and carry and I ended up supporting the thinner end of the top pole. You can see that support between anorak and backpack. I would have wanted to add extra support onto the side of the wall, supporting the joint between top pole and supports, so that these could not move outward. I will do so the next time I go out there and complete the construction.

Finally it was time for some testing and I must say that the bed was quite comfortable. I can imagine getting a good night's rest on that. By then it was time to pack up and I did something I normally would never do; I left it all in place.
Partly because it had gotten so late and partly because I want to come back, complete the constructions and perhaps spend a night or 2 there. I hope no one will tear it down of take offense...