Sunday, July 23, 2017

20 years ago.....

I came to Sweden for the first time.... and right then in my soul I knew I had come home and that I would live here one day. That became my dream, our dream. First my wife's and mine, then our family's and today we are living that dream. Realising that dream was not easy, leaving everything and everyone we knew behind. Taking the Big Step (or Plunge or running away and abandoning it all as some called it) was huge and life changing, but we did it nevertheless. Living that dream however became a struggle on its own. When dreaming one tends to turn a blind eye to reality, but we were also misinformed and had underestimated certain conditions in our new home environment. At times (many times) the dream was a nightmare, but at others it really was a good dream.
But as dreams have a tendency to do, they change. At first it was just to live and work here, getting away from the ratrace, with nature near to retreat in or to, but the dream changed into doing more than that; into a life far less dependent on and supportive of this system, which we deem wrong, abusive and destructive. Self sufficiency came into play. We found a place out in the country with a little patch of land to grow our food and have some animals; bees and chickens.
But this year/summer I sort of gave up.... or gave in, is more to the point. I lost the energy, the momentum and the will to continue the struggle, sort of threw the towel into the ring. Constantly swimming upstream, trying to make ends meet, staying afloat..... It took its toll. It feels as if 6 years in Sweden has made me 10 years older.
My marriage almost ended. We came very close and that did leave its mark. Having 2 teens and a pre-teen does to. No blame on the kids, they are going through that teen-hell-phase, but it brought the lack of parental guidance in my youth painfully to light. As an additional bonus I got word that my father was not doing well, losing one leg, maybe even both, double hip fracture, but too weak to undergo surgery, maybe even close to death. Now there is no relation between him and me, aside from a biological bond, but the realisation that when he passes I am the next in line, the eldest in the line of male descendants gave me another shock as did the realisation that we will never reconcile. I would never travel home, even if I did have the means to do so. And that did leave a bitter taste. It once again drove home the fact that my children will continue to grow up without family. They missed their grandparents from my side, no uncles or aunts... nothing. They also missed the family on my wife's side and with her mother having moved back to the Netherlands that gap got enlarged even more so.
My income dried up once again and we fell back onto a teacher's (my wife's) salary, which is just enough to live on. We have done with less, true, but that really was survival-mode. Now we are on barely living-mode. We are not really getting anywhere with our homestead and the garden is showing the lack of drive. The fact that it has been a cool and very dry summer did the rest. We have not had the possibility to create a properly working watering system yet, so....
I also gave in with the food. Eating too much junk, having a few beers too many, not really paying attention to my health. Which of course did nothing to improve the situation.
All in all I have to say that I feel like I got stuck in my annual spring depression, which was deeper due to a negative thinking spiral during winter, and have not yet come out of it completely. It mostly is physical fatigue these days as the brain and mood are on their way up. Breaking such a cycle requires tremendous amounts of energy and that takes its toll.

Ahhh not all is doom and gloom!
The fact that the garden is not producing optimally makes for good experimentation possibilities and lessons. For instance we learned that we have to cover the beds not just against butterflies, when it comes to cabbages, but also against cats and chickens after sowing! As soon as the plants are established these two no longer wreak havoc as much, but before that......
I also learned that my aesthetically pleasing design with the long narrow beds and wooden borders are not just impractical, but they also waste many a square meter of usable surface area. So the wooden borders come out again. Instead of many separate beds the area will be divided into 4 large growing areas.
Lesson nr. 3 is that we placed our greenhouse in the wrong spot. Seedlings do grow, but the light is not optimal, causing long, thin seedlings. But also the greenhouse is in an almost forgotten corner and we regularly forgot to water the seedlings. A lot of waste of potential plants and food was the result. So we have to move the greenhouse to another location next year, which means moving the compost bin, organising our parking lot/wood processing area. That in itself means building new wood storages and optimising available space.
Speaking of wood processing; that required a lot more time and effort then anticipated. Which in itself caused me to fall behind from the get go.

And there are some exciting prospects ahead as well!!
For one is that we will be having guests from the Netherlands all through august. A couple of friends and their daughters from the old school our kids went to as well and who have visited us three years a go too plus the couple that came and visited us last year. It will be wonderful to have folks around to talk to and hang around with. I must admit the loneliness I experienced these last few months had been getting to me.
But I also managed to come into contact with people who own and use sled dogs and they are willing to show me how things are done! I am actually going to learn how to train the dogs and myself, how to use the gear and how to operate as a dog team. I am excited!!!

I have to admit that after reading Dawkins' books, and attempting Darwin's, my view on things has certainly changed. For one Dawkins put into words the things I have always felt; that religion is delusional, a huge hoax and scam. Doesn't matter which one of the major religions you pick. Putting your faith into a god, based on presumably made up stories, that are proven to be false.... Using those "holy" scripts as guidelines or even taking them literally, while they contain many horrible and inhumane acts by both gods and humans.... In my view a bad choice. Dismissing reality, while that is based on proven facts, just because "ancient" tellings dictate otherwise; a sure sign of narrow mindedness and shortsightedness.
Slaughtering one another, because your religion is more peace loving and true.... Pick a word from the dictionary under the category of sheer madness and hypocrisy.
To me religion has never been anything but a tool used to subdue the slow of mind in order to do the ruler's bidding. It was and is a tool of huge power, wielded by ruthless members of the clergy, responsible for suffering and death on a massive scale over the centuries. It feeds the feud between the main religions to this very day, still at each other's throats.
A rootcause of evil!
These books opened my eyes to the more physical world around me and I have even more begun to see the sheer wonder it contains. I have begun to look upon plant and animal with renewed curiosity, having fed my wanting to look at them even more closely to see all the intricate details they possess. I am truly amazed at how this all came to be.
I have also begun to understand that I need not worry about our world, about nature and all the living things that are part of it. There will always be life, in whatever form, going on and filling the empty places we humans have created. No matter how much we pollute, destroy, pillage and ransack the world around us, plants and animals eventually will adapt and fill the gaps. What we really need to worry about is ourselves! We might not have that capability!
Even if we kill of everything in our area it will only be a matter of time, before something living returns. It might take 100, 1000 or 100000 years, a mere blink of an eye on the geological timescale, but some form of life will return, adapt and flourish.

But it also made me reflect on my life as it is now and how that came to be. It made me wonder who I am, what I am, what I stand for and believe in.
Am I an atheist?
Am I an anarchist?
Nonconformist maybe?
Am I antisocial?
Am I a rebel or simply a pessimist?
Or am I an idealist?
A dreamer?

To be truthful I am a mixture of all of the above. How could I not be. No one is one label or another. And besides that, I hate all those ist-labels. I am me. With all my faults and merits.
But what is me? And what are my faults and merits? The one can be the other given certain circumstances.
One of the things I have struggled with for as long as I can remember is authority. Demanding authority wielded by my father, by teachers, by bosses and superiors. By any and all who thought they could demand authority, because they wanted to or felt entitled to. That became clear during puberty, as it is supposed to be, but continued all through my adult life up till now. And will continue to do so, no doubt about that. Which is strange, since I have a bit of a hard time, when my children, especially my daughters, show me that very same feat.
I struggle with imposed authority, not only by individuals, but also groups, systems or even society at large. I will not accept group rules or behaviour, simply because it is expected or even obligatory. I will always ask "why" or rebel, when forced to comply. That has caused numerous problems at the places I worked. All but one. During my army days I accepted the imposed authority. It was inherent to the job. But I still used my brain and asked why to come up with alternative solutions. And I was lucky enough to have superiors that appreciated my thinking. The Dutch army in those days was known for that flexibility. I would not have fared well in any other, to me known, army, I suppose.

Am I an atheist?
That is for certain. I renounce any and all ruling deities. I do not believe in all seeing, all knowing and all ruling gods in whatever form or guise.
However I do not deny that I do think that, despite ruling out the beliefs of the main religions, there is something more out there. Something we have yet not come to understand, natural laws not yet discovered, let alone explained. For instance things like a or the soul. The current scientific explanation that it is nothing more than electric currents, chemical reactions and proteins is not sufficient. What makes every individual unique? What makes me me and you you? How do we explain certain qualities, talents, feats or passions? Why are those processes described, if it is all there is, so very different in me than they are in you?

I often wonder how much of this all is inherited character and how much of it is taught/learned....
In my new found realisations I started to look around for others, who might think or feel like me. The isolation I often experience drove me to seek out people online, due to non existent contacts in the real world.

I ended up exploring sites and forums where atheists meet..... and once again I was not being let down in getting disappointed in humans in general. Some of those people, assumingly a relatively small, but disproportionately loud mouthed group, it seems not only have renounced the gods and religions, but along with it everything we can not scientifically explain by today's standards. In my eyes completely missing the point, by putting their complete faith (here we go again) in today's science, totally disregarding how limited, shortsighted or corrupted it was, is or has become.
Gone are the possible existence of non-physical entities, energies or otherwise yet not explained phenomenon.
And in their belief these atheists have become exactly the same as those they shun or ridicule. They attack anyone proposing otherwise, with the same shortsightedness, biases and bullyish attitude that deeply religious people tend to show these days. The same unwillingness to accept someone else's views, shouting people down with the argument that there is nothing else out there, besides that which current science cannot explain. My way or the highway. Today's science has become their bible or qur'an.
We truly are a limited species. We have evolved technically over the past millennia, but mentally and emotionally we have fallen behind that technical evolution, retaining our caveman mentality. if anything I feel we even have devolved!! We keep going in circles. Societies and civilisations come into existence, grow, fade and die, but we have yet make that leap into real enlightenment, where we truly learn and understand that we are all one. All interconnected and interdependent.
There are no gods, no heaven and no hell.
But we think we are gods, behave as devils, creating a hell on earth in instead of taking care of this heavenly place we should call home; our blue planet.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Modifying an LK35 Swedish army backpack

I've been having a new favorite backpack; an LK35. Legendary and iconic within the bushcraft world, I managed to get my hands on one..... and was not overly impressed by it! 
Here are my original finding; Swedish military backpacks LK35
Because I was not happy with the way it rode on my shoulders and back, I started altering the straps. I took a set from a derelicted Berghaus Vulcan II and also took the waist strap from that one. That made a huge difference. However attaching it to the frame required some more tweaking and I ended up sowing a minor strap from a cheap, civilian backpack to the shoulder straps, creating a "Y"-shape. With this the end of the straps remained in place by fastening them to the frame as well. From that same backpack I added a sternum strap.
Now the setup worked like a charm! I went nuts and deliberately overloaded the original frame and backpack up to 18kg with a bedroll and poncho on top and a sleeping mat at the bottom. The only thing happening was on of the waist straps coming loose, but the whole contraption rode well.

But I didn't stop there. I went one step further and tried a frame I had modified earlier in order to use it with a German backpack, as seen here; part I and part II. In hindsight that did not work too well, but the new combination did!! And it saved almost 1,5 kg in weight too.
The frames compared; you can see the "new" frame being wider and taller and has a brace big enough to keep the pack standing. A good thing on wet or dirty underground.
 But I still was not quite satisfied and the last modification I did, was a pure cosmetic one. I really did not like that bright green colour and I had been messing around with a wooden box, painting it green, adding trees, tracks and animal images to it, but in a way that might resemble camouflage;

You can see where this is going, right? Yup, you guessed it!

The pattern consists of real fern leaves oversprayed with dark green, the animal tracks in antracit grey, followed by animal depictions in brown.Now it really is MY bag. Love it!

Here's what a standard issue setup looks like;

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Waste not, want not.

Midsummer has come and gone. From now on days will shorten and nights will lengthen again.
We did not celebrate midsummer. We have no connection to the feast. I guess one has to grow up with it and to have its importance embedded in one's soul. It would help if we had people to celebrate it with, too. It appears to be a feast one shares with family and close friends and since we have neither here or very few......
So while people were preparing for the festivities of midsummer, I was preparing for cosy, warm nights during midwinter.

Now, again there's a thought behind this work; I use the shredder for small twigs and such, to create a cover over the soil, so no muddy feet during rainy days, but anything that contraption does not chew up up to 7-8cm in diameter, does not get thrown away. I will put that aside and saw it up by hand into 30cm pieces. Why? 30cm is what fits into our fireplace and I do that by hand to remind myself how much work goes into sawing and cutting firewood to warm our house. By doing so, I hope I will avoid wasteful behaviour. And as you can see the pile next to the stand has already grown substantially. That will provide us with many hours of cosy warmth in our livingroom. I know for a fact that the majority around here would just have set fire to the pile of branches. Quick and easy.
Anything over the 8cm will be done with a saw machine (I hope) and then split. I am sure part of it by hand for reasons stated, but given the amount and my physical condition I will try and loan a splitting machine. No need in causing more damage.

And speaking of damage...... We had some chicken woes.
It turned out that we do have chickens that are willing to sit on eggs. Very willing indeed! One of them, belonging to the latest group we bought, was already nicknamed "failure" by the previous owner. She never managed to complete the task and now she messed up for us as well. And messed up is the right word; because she crapped all over the eggs and over all the eggs, they were unable to hatch. And with 3-4 hens stacked on top of them all the time.... Let's just say that sped up the decaying process. Against better judgement we thought we give the hens a chance anyway, but at long last I had to clean up the eggs. After removing the hens, which did not move willingly, I found not only messy eggs, but also cracked ones. And the smell...... If I thought it was pungent before I started.....
Now everything's cleaned up again and once again there are hens sitting on eggs. Which is to be blamed on me. Couldn't help myself and put some eggs into a fresh and clean batch of straw and the incubating instinct took over almost at once. Only 2 now and on 5 eggs and we marked on the calendar when they are due. I might be tempted to repeat the procedure if it turns out that more hens are willing. Misslyckare (translation for failing one) is not allowed to sit on eggs anymore and if indeed we get chicks, she will be permanently removed from the flock coming autumn.
Keeping our fingers crossed, because we'd really like chicks!!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Nyberget Summercamp

Summer break is here and in order to keep the kids busy and away from computer- and/or telephone screens we came up with a few activities at home to keep them occupied, challenge them and learn them a thing or two, that just might come in handy someday.
The setup is twofold; one is for enjoyment and recreation, the other is for learning some skills. A third one is spending more time together too.
First of all I bought a game of "kub"; an old swedish game involving pins and throwing blocks, where 2 sides compete in knocking over each other's pins with said blocks. A very simple, but equally fun game. Next we put up the trampoline again. A great way to get some exercise and release bottled up energy. Also a very nice place to just lay on, relax and watch the canopy and skies above. Stuff to make you dream away a little..... Then we hauled up the old swing frame, which we had intended to grow beans on, but which was just too big. Now it is fulfilling its old purpose again; a pair of rings is hanging from it. Plus a punching bag. And it will hold two hammocks too. ;)
And the other day we spent some cash on a badminton set plus net, some tins of air rifle pellets and targets. So besides play, we, mostly I, intend to teach them about handling rifles, routines like safety, drills and shooting, teach them some self defence, like how to avoid a fight, throw a punch or block one, use dirty tricks if needed and kubotan and show them the basics of first aid too. They are old enough to learn and if our youngest one wants to join in, she can too. There's enough for her too learn too.
Besides our first aid kit has quite a few items that have expired, old "army" bandages and stuff, so we can keep it practical; the way to keep a kid's attention. And when handling knives, hatchets or an (air)rifle, basic first aid knowledge is mandatory.

Some of it had to be tried out right away....

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

A disruption of routine

I have to admit it, I am one of those people who likes to have a routine in everyday life, like to change that evévery once in awhile to break the monotony, but dislikes the actual change, since that disrupts my flow and I have to adjust.... Anyway.... The everyday routine is broken and being replaced by another one; the summer holiday has begun. No more alarmclock, the kids are at home for 10 weeks straight and coming tuesday my wife too for 8 weeks. This means a disruption of my usuals routines and these are replaced by other, less strict ones. The adaptation usually takes a few days. Days during which I feel a little lost....
So far we have had a few good tastes of summer, but also a good deal of rain. I can't keep up cutting the grass or weeding the beds with vegetables! And that is frustrating as hell! I have another confession to make..... this year we are not as fanatic, when it comes to growing vegetables. 2 beds have become overgrown with weeds, we turned out to have next to no carrot seeds left, our courgette seedlings got eaten within a few days and I made a huge mistake during winter. In an attempt to get nutrients and organic matter into the soil, I used the chicken manure mixed with hay and spread that out over the beds. That is like sowing weeds and fertilizing them at the same time.... Hence the aforementioned overgrowing issues.  A few beds I could clear (more or less), but those last 2.... Besides that weeding with your hands in partially decayed chickenshit and wet grass.... No fun.

We had high hopes that our chickens would produce offspring. The eggs were there, the chickens went and sat on them, but things went bad anyway. For one thing one of the hens poo'ed all over the eggs, for another the hens piled on top of one another, up to 4 at some times. There is a bad, sour smell coming out of the henhouse and we found one of the eggs crushed with a hatchling inside it. The first batch of eggs is 4 weeks old now and they should hatch within 21 days, give or take, One of the hens has not quite gotten the idea yet, since she sits next to her eggs.... So I fear we will have to remove any and all eggs and hope that the ladies will try again and with better results....

Right now we are "påreparing" for the traditional midsummer festivities and as usual the weather plays along...... by reminding us how it is in early spring with forecast rain and low temperatures.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bushcraft weekend Gyllbergen

Now this post will contain a number (probably most) of pictures and links that are not mine. I will give credit to the owners and people concerned. And I have to warn you beforehand; it contains many pictures, some even have me in them.... 😆
The fun thing is that this way I not only can harass you all with repeated exposure to my ugly mug, but it also shows the event through the eyes of the others, creating a more colourful and diverse picture.

It had been a long time since I last slept out and the last time actually was the bushcraft meet in 2016.
So this local bushcraft meet was an excellent occasion to get my butt out into the woods again!
The weather forecast was changing constantly, but the dominating presence of rain and not knowing the terrain, prompted me to load up the big tent, after consulting Olli. In hindsight the tent was not needed, thankfully.
However I came very close to not attending. My stomach really started acting the previous night, but it settled down in time. A wrong combination of food, probably combined with a touch of nerves, I think. Regular readers know that I tend to get a bit anxious when being confronted with the prospect of meeting new people or participating in larger groups. Turned out that the group wasn't that large after all and it felt as if I met with a group of friends, not strangers. Says enough, doesn't it?

I wanted to test some things too over the weekend. Things like my upgraded LK35 backpack, my puptent/mosquito net arrangement and the army wool blankets I have. The expert will recognise a standard LK35.... heavily overloaded. It contained everything I needed including the food. Bedroll with tenthalf, mosquitonet and blankets over the top, poncho and bungies before that, small pouch with first aid kit and foldable 5l. watercontainer and sleepingmat under. Inside as said food, swedish army messkit, moccasins, fleece vest and small stuff.

It performed very well, given the load of 18kg, but one half of the waistbelt came off almost instantly, when unloading the car. A test report will follow in due time.

My home for the weekend.
I opted for this one, because of the forecast rain and because I actually never slept in one of these before.
It is actually part of a small viking-style village under construction/restoration and the entire premises is private property.

This weekend was organised by Olli Niemelä from Swetrek, but it was an all private undertaking.
The friday workshops were fire given by Olli and fly fishing by Joakim Karlsson, who also is a member of said team.
I went for the first one and in this little group there were a number of absolute beginners, which to me is a good thing. This way everyone gets to go over all the basics again and their enthusiasm was contagious. There was plenty of room for exchanging of experiences and knowledge, so it was fun to participate.
Photo by Per Moren
That's Lisa to the right and
Roger, the knifeman to the left
Afterwards we had dinner and I was able to share some of my outdoor household tips; how to do dishes bushcraft-style with nothing but a birch branch and some water. Crunch or smash the tip of a fresh branch as thick as your thumb for a brush, use the leaves of said branch for soap but crushing and boiling them, which releases food remains and fat even before you start brushing and use the ashes to remove soot by dipping the brush into the water, then the ash and then gently scrub. Voila, pots & pans clean and no chemical waste left out there. It also removes the need to bring that stuff in the first place. Not much of a contribution, but one subject that is often overlooked and/or dismissed, since many deem it a burden.
Later in the evening there was live music by Lisa Brolander, singing songs by Dan Andersson, a favorite of Olli, and some of her own work. Her unique voice, accompanied by her guitar playing, combined with the melancholy in Andersson's songs and lyrics, the darkening skies and forest around us, the looming clouds promising rain, the campfire.... All this created an atmosphere that was hard to describe. Everyone, perhaps even everything fell silent and listened and I dare say that she touched our souls. At least mine. An experience I shall not lightly forget.
Then another participant, called Boel, spontaneously joined in, and these 2 women had voices that matched and complemented each other perfectly. As they sang it sounded as if they had been doing that together for a long time, despite just meeting one another. Amazing, really.

Lisa Brolander kular

photo by Boel Engkvist

photo by Boel Engkvist
Saturday started grey and wet.  Not the best of conditions for the first workshop; the bowdrill!
The guy showing and teaching us, Robert Eriksson from Mountain Guide Travel took some materials with him, so these were dry and he managed to get a fire going in 2 attempts and under 10 minutes. But the effort involved was quite obvious!
He told us what locally available materials to use, which was very welcome to me and then we could have a go to. I knew I would not be able to pull it off, but I had a go anyway. And indeed...... After a few starting troubles I got the thing smoking and there was charred powder, but before an ember emerged, my shoulder seized up and I had to put the bow down, knowing that pushing it would make me regret it for days after. Slightly disappointed and frustrated I sat there on my knees, looking at the small pile of charred wood. And then I had a lightbulb-moment; would a firesteel work?? I loaned one and with 3 strikes I got a glow. Some gentle fanning and blowing indeed resulted in a small ball of fire!!

Observe the simplistic expression of joy and
wonder on this specimen's face

photo by Boel Engkvist

Photo by Lee Fraser

After lunch we were heading out, aiming for the highest point in the area, the top of the Gyllbergen. Not impressively high at 497m, but the highest in the area. The terrain on the other hand did prove to be a tad challenging, especially given the wet conditions. Rain had come in by now and much of the track was bare rock, barely covered rock or wet wooden beams with a hint of algae. In the beginning I boosted that my old army boots gave me a firm footing, but before the end of the trip my cockyness had come crashing down, putting me firmly back on the ground again. I slipped. The first 2 times no harm was done and I thought the second one actually was a quite spectacular save, but three times is a charm and my third time was not at all charming. No saving there! But other than a bruised ego and some wet cloth, no harm was done.
The hill itself, with its boulders, bare rock and stunted vegetation was quite gloomy in the greyness of the low hanging clouds. Finding an sacrificial stone, a large square block, deliberately leveled out, did little to lighten the atmosphere.

photo by Lee Fraser
Back at camp we prepared for the next workshop; a beginner's theory on wolf tracking, combined with making camp coffee. Which was a good combo, since we were kind of in the mood for coffee.
Olli explained and showed the basics of tracking wolf, but unfortunately it was all theory. The coffee making was much more practical and not much later we were enjoying a hot cup o' joe.
Another workshop on fly fishing, especially the Japanese version tenkara, followed suit. Joakim was explaining the basics and tenkara is all about basics apparently, but I absolutely have no fishermen's heart, so I did not attend. However I did catch the part, where the fishing rod ínvolved was shown and I could not help being impressed, when out of a tube that would easily fit into a backpack a rod emerged, several meters long, complete with string and lure.
By now the grey clouds started to get thinner and not much later small patches of blue started to appear, growing in size still. Then the sun entered the stage and the change of the area and atmosphere could not have been more dramatic and total. Gone was the all dominating greyness and the vegetation positively blazed with greens. Greens so bright it looked as if the were luminous, leaves and branches decorated with drops that glittered and shone. The surface of the pond next to camp became still and turned into one big mirror, amplifying the invigorating brightness. The mood, which was never bad to begin with, noticeably lifted even more....

photo by Tobias Karlsson
Later we were treated by a guy, who came to bake so-called "kolbullar", a kind of thick pancake with plenty of bacon, to be eaten with lingonsylt (lingonberry or cowberry marmelad), baked in cast iron over an open fire. I must admit I can not recall having had better ones than these! They were really good and a suitable dinner for the occasion. Chef de cuisine was Johan Hyson.
In the meantime we had a workshop on restoring old knives, given by Roger Olsson, who was also attending. Now there was a man with a passion for knife restoration! He rekindled my desire to finish my knife project that has been dormant (sounds better then shelved and forgotten) for 5 years now and I will see to it that it gets done after summer. He gave me a handful of very useful tips and suggestions and he also showed us a good deal of tips and tricks on knife sharpening, both practical and economical!

Several fish were caught during the evening, cleaned up and cooked and we all got a taste of that. Again, not being a fish lover, I thought it tasted good and was impressed by flavour and simplicity.
During the evening I talked to Tobias, board member of both the Swedish bushcraft förening and bushcraft festival and it is due to him that I decided to attend the latter and probably rejoin the first. Actually the festival is already booked and the ticket sits on my planning board as I write this....
This night we were treated to a very different kind of musical entertainment. One of a much lighter character and we had a few good laughs listening to the guy, called Mika Olavi, performing, singing, playing his guitar or accordion. We had a good chat regarding atheism and related views on the world and life afterwards.

Photo by Johan Hansson
This is Tobias and me and you might notice the coffee grinder in the picture.
Now there's a little story to that one. During our conversation we talked about several small pleasures of camplife, one being pipe smoking and another coffee. Turned out he had the same preferences of the old ways and he showed me 2 coffee grinders he had just bought. Like me he seems unable to pass by a secondhand store without stopping. Now this particular grinder is exactly the type I like and matches the colours of our kitchen. And being the gentle man that he is, he let this one pass over to me!
You can see him using the other one, grinding coffee which afterwards would please our tastebuds..... He also explained how to prepare and use a pipe and gave some tips on tobacco. I have on several occasions thought about getting one myself, but have convinced myself that it would be pretty stupid to start smoking again after being "clean" for almost 15 years.

But still.....
The evening went on well into the night and even into the morning for some, but now we're so close to midsummer it is not getting really dark anymore. Lee captured that wonderfully I think.

photo by Lee Fraser
During the weekend that social lubricant, known as alcohol, was applied liberally and sunday morning showed the carnage. I was up first, ready for breakfast by 08:45 and the scene around the campfire did remind me of one after a Roman orgy. Cans and bottles and junk everywhere!!! So after blowing the fire back to life and while the water for the coffee was being heated I started cleaning up. It didn't take too much time and by the time coffee was ready the site looked acceptable once again. Good thing too, since the owner of the site showed up not much later and I would have hated him seeing the mess. I must admit that during cleaning I got the feeling that some parts of me integrating into Swedish society have worked out...... given the amount of empty beer cans under the bench where I had resided for much of the previous evening...... 😏
But it has to be said that there was no negative behaviour at all, both during or after and I have seen differently!

This weekend I did test and learned a few things for myself as well.
The major one being my bedding setup. I can now lay to rest the romanticized and nostalgic ideas of using blankets. I used 2 wool army blankets....... and froze!! Even though temperatures remained around 10C. I have to say that conditions included high humidity, due to the rain and the spot I slept was quite drafty with gaps in the floor, around the small windows and all around the edges of the roof. It was dry, but that was about it. Even the gaps in the floor were big enough to let in daylight!
I was lying on a fieldbed with a sleeping mat on top, but the cold just came up and went through. That was the biggest issue. I also learned the hard way that I do need some form of pillow for a good night's rest. I ended up using a fleece vest and my moccasins stacked on top of one another as a headrest, but those quickly compressed into a hard lump. Lugging around a field bed or slumping on a rocky floor crisscrossed with roots no longer appeals either, so I have been taking a closer look at Lee's hammock & tarp setup. Those look more and more appealing.....

Was the entire weekend one of only ups? Unfortunately no.
I did suffer a loss as well. My trusted and loved moose mug has rendered itself useless. A crack in the bottom now has extended all the way out, so the coffee leaks through. It will go on the wall or shelf of memories as a living testimony.

A wholehearted "Tack så hemskt mycket" to all participants for creating and making this event into what is was!!!

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Sticks 'n stones....

....won't break my bones, but it sure feels like they're breaking my back!

Besides getting the food garden ready and going, we're also working hard to restore the damages and clearing away the debris. Firewood should not be too much of an issue coming winter, provided I get it all cut up and stacked soon, so it can dry properly before that.
A lot of work is the clearing away of all the rocks and boulders that can be moved. What to do with all those?? And all those smaller branches?? So I came up with a plan; using the stones as markers for a path and chopping up the branches and twigs as the actual path. Saves a lot of muddy feet.
The excess stones will end up as small walls around the edges. This should create a warm terrace, creating possibilities (hopefully) for (edible) plants that prefer warmer circumstances. Drier most likely too. Maybe a good spot for perennial herbs.
This required a piece of equipment I used to have, but that broke last season; a chopper for those branches. I had one with rollers; quiet and strong, resulting in 2cm large chunks and chips. A new one would set us back 2000sek at least. However my wife found one in a garagesale for a whopping 50. Downside is that this one has knives. And I don't like it. It is noisy with a earsplitting screamy noise, not nearly as strong as the previous one and is murder for the body due to the constant vibrations. One has to hold onto the branches all the way, since it is not self feeding. But it gives nice small chips and gets the job done eventually without us going bankrupt.

That cheap 'n shoddy greenhouse we got last year is serving as a frame for the beans now.
There's another pile of to be processed wood there too.........

The terrace is shaping up.
And another pile of wood.....
plus a lot more still lying between the trees.....

Well, I did ask for it, didn't I? Summer.... we got it, if even for a few days. High score so far 27C. But the weather's been kind to us so far. The temperatures remained nice, despite several days where the skies opened up. So the drought issues are gone for now. Not enough to replenish the water shortages, but that would really be too much to ask. Everything is looking fresh, vibrant, lush. So far the forest fire risks are back to minimal again.
Phew. Had a few days with the next to highest alert level.

A blazing summer's day....

And a few days later thunderclouds gathering and a storm building.
For the first time since we moved here I have the feeling that I got the garden under control. At least the grass and weeds that grow more than a centimeter a day. That weed hacker I bought last year turns out to be a very good investment indeed! I really have been putting the damn thing through its passes, but it keeps going good so far. The extra batteries were worth their money too!
Another investment I made this year was the purchase of a chainsaw. An electrical one.
Why this choice? No nauseating exhaust fumes, acceptable levels of noise and a very low price, incl. the helmet. Just buying such a helmet new would be more than the price than what I paid for the set! I will not need another chainsaw, since I will not be working or cutting in the woods anyway. And so far I am quite pleased. This machine made short work of a 13 meter high pine, 2 even taller birches, a few smaller ones and some aspen, a fully grown rowan and some junipers. Cutting the smaller trunks and bigger branches into pieces fitting the heater remains to be done, though.
A new set of skills has been and is being learned!

Also the community building facebook-initiative I took, is working. One of the members arranged a plant/seedling sale/swapping day and we finally got to meet the writer David, who moved to the neighbouring village and his partner Sofia. They arranged this event on their homestead, complete with drinks, pastries and icecream! It was a very lovely small gathering. All in all maybe 60 people turned up, but the atmosphere was real good and it turns out that there is a need for community and such events. It is growing and more and more people are doing their share; growing crops, having chickens etc. All small scale, but when combined with great result. This is the beginning, but it'll grow!!!
Our table...
There was a garage sale in a part of our municipally the other day as well. Besides the usual small things, like military shirts, a book and some old utensils, I came across something I'd consider a small treasure; some old beekeepers stuff from the 20's and 30's! Those would be a bunch of old, genuine labels for honey jars and 2 honey tins. AND a complete year of a beekeepers magazine from 1924. Those items followed me home, just out of sense of nostalgia. I also spotted an probably equally old honey centrifuge, but its shape was not the best. I wouldn't use it anyway! And of course the talk turned toward bees and related subjects. The owner of the place, who incidentally is the same man who introduced me to woodturning, when we were on a holiday here in 2008, told me there were a bunch of old beehives up in a wood smoking shack. So I went up there and indeed found 3 hives. Those were wooden stackable hives, but of proportions I had never seen before. Big ones!! These were used during the 30's I assume, given the fact that it was the old man's father who was a beekeeper and due to the fact that the labels are from the 30's. Some google-fu seems to confirm that.

A plan has arisen in my twisted brain, to see if I can get those hives and place them on our local hembygdsgård (local history museum). The idea is to re-create a 1920's-1930's apiary, but a live re-enactment! I want to restore these hives to their previous glory and populate them.
Now I need to see to it that it materialises!! That means talk with the hive owner to donate the hives, the board of the museum to get permission for this idea, the neighbours to avoid complaints and the local beekeepers for assistance.

As for our everyday life, besides shoveling earth, moving stones and cutting up trees, planting and sowing is well under way. As we speak, or I write, more half of our available beds have been planted. We took it kind of slow this year. Not too many plants and very little flowers. I sort of forgot to order seeds for those. But we still have the entire herb-section to go!!
For those I am creating space directly next to our terrace, so we can pick what we need, whenever we need or otherwise enjoy their smell or flowers.

And then there's the chickens.... We have got a strange bunch. Which is not all that surprising since noone and nothing here is quite normal. But some of our ladies have started to hatch. And they do not do that with a nestbox each.... No, they like cosy. Very cosy. Three of them in one box!! Keeping a staggering 27(!) eggs warm and toasty. Even if less than half hatch, we'll be having a significant enlargement of our flock! Which is a good thing, since we not only saw the fox dashing between rocks and trees here the other day, when our flock was out. No, we have a much more serious threat here at home. Lester!!
He gave me a real shock the other day. As I was finishing up in the garden for lunch, I noticed a white curled up tail in the corner of my eye. One of the dogs out? Did I leave a door open? Or a window? It has happened before, so..... I checked. All was closed. All, except for one kitchen window, more than 2 meters above ground level. He had jumped out of that one!! And when he's out, he will not come back just like that! No way. But it got much worse real quick. He did something he had not done before. He went for the chickens! And caught one! And would not drop it! And took off with it........ and ate it. Luckily he took the least valuable one; Malfoy, one of the new cocks. And he was by far the smallest and weak one. So that saves us the trouble of having to kill him ourselves. But still..... I'd much rather have him on my plate then in Lester's stomach.
He rammed home the fact that he is indeed a Siberian husky/Alaskan malamute mix. A breed with very primitive characters, including hunting, killing and eating.
After the initial shock, and determined exclamations from me that he had overstepped the line and had to go, I calmed down and realised that it is not his fault. He did what he is bred to do. It is inherent to his breed. And we once again need to adapt to that.

But now I'm off, packing for a weekend of bushcrafting, camping and meeting people, both known and unknown.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Will it ever be summer?

Spring sure has been taking its time this year. The coldest spring in over 150 years I heard some say! And I can believe it. The first half of may has past and I do not think we could fill one week with daytime temperatures reaching double digits in celsius.
But then, as I browsed a bit through earlier posts, I came across a post from exactly 2 years ago. And there too was the mention of a cold, grey and windy spring. So maybe it is not all that abnormal at all, but still.... the coldest in 150 years....
But improvement is on its way! Temperatures are on the rise and before we know it we will be complaining about grass growing at astonishing speed! And it is about time too. In 4 weeks time the kids will be having their summer holiday and it still felt like early spring.
All we need now is a good amount of rain, even though plenty would complain about that too in no time. Local water levels in lakes and flows have dropped severely already and in many parts of Sweden warnings about water shortages are being issued. Some places already put a ban on using water for watering the garden and such! In order to prevent problems with that in the future we have started to take precautions; we got ourselves a large watertank, which will be filled with lake- and/or rainwater. I was even thinking greywater, but that would involve some serious rearranging of plumbing, so I'll put that off for the time being. But it might materialise in the future....

And then.... it happened!
We got hit by a sudden wave of warmth!
The wind shifted and the temperatures rose to well over 20C overnight with a very high humidity. And all the green stuff just went *BOOM* An explosion of green all around us. I swear I could see the grass grow! As if all the greens had been bottling up the growing energy, waiting for these circumstances to happen and now unleashing that energy. What a transformation.
And not just the greens, bugs and beasties too. There are insects, flying, crawling, creeping all over the place. I am not glad to report the ants are back too...