Thursday, September 13, 2018

Things have fallen silent again

As I said in the previous post all good things come to an end. Nothing lasts forever and some things do not last long at all. 
The joy of having fluffy balls running around, chirping, was short lived. Last week we had visitors. At first I was alerted by a lot of commotion in the garden, noisy hens and agitated dogs. I ran out to discover a young western marsh harrier or brun kärrhök (Circus aeruginosushad landed smack in the middle of the maternal group. The markings were unmistakble and my eart skipped a beat. I could not see the hatchlings.
I found this image on the net, but can't remember where.

I could however come very close to the harrier and I could have touched it if I wanted to, but looking at the size of its talons and its half opened beak made me decide otherwise. It was not scared of me at all and I had some difficulty is scaring it away, actually. When it finally did lift off, it made a tired, almost exhausted impression. It moved slowly, uncertain and a bit wobbly. It landed in a tree quite close by, but as I approached it to take a photo it finally flew off. I could not see the hatchlings, but hoped they would have gotten to safety by hiding in the underbrush somewhere and that they'd pop up if I let them be. Mother hen would rally them by calling. I went back inside, only to be alerted by a cacophony of alarmcalls within 15 minutes. I flew out, only this time to witness a fox dash off!! I chased it, but could not see if there were chickens missing. Mother hen however was sitting on a birchlog, calling excitedly. She would not move and kept calling as I checked the area. It did not take long to find the first casualties; 3 of the 10 hatchlings were dead and 7 were missing...... Later on I saw 4 of them clambering (falling) down from the lower branches of the large juniper, next to the coop. We had lost 6 of the hatchlings, including my favorite, the sandybrown one that was named Mocca.
So Mother Hen was down to 4 young ones. The day before yesterday our youngest daughter was ones again alerted by a lot of noise and excited dogs and she witnessed the fox, again, attack our chickens. This time Mother hen was taken, dying defending her remaining young ones. So now we had 4 orphans in the coop, huddled together at night in a corner of the separate area. Yesterday morning the ordeal was over for 3 of them, as they too had gone. Mice had made a hole in the bottom of the coop during winter and something must have gotten in and taken those 3. That left us with only 1 hatchling, because that one had apparently made it onto the sticks, among the roosting chickens. This morning however this one too had gone.......
Total damage this year; 4 hens and 10 hatchlings. Having livestock isn't always fun.
On the other hand we did get an addition to the family once more; meet Kayla. Actualy intended to be a Kalle, but it turned ot the (s)he was missing some vital parts to be male, instead having other parts that males usually don't. But these days one can no longer be sure, really.... And for reasons yet unknown she seems to have developped a specia liking for me. Can't go and sit in my chair without her jumping on my lap and she likes to cuddle up REAL close at night in bed. As in half on my pillow and in my face. preferably under my beard.

And the dogrunning business suddenly got a whole lot more serious and real after I was given an old, but still functional cart. It needs a new tube on one of the wheels and a dash of paint, along some minor repairs, but otherwise it is good to go.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

All good things come to an end

.... as the saying goes.
But that applies for the bad things as well. One of which was the summer. All of a sudden its seemingly everlasting drought and crippling heat just ended and with did the summervacation. Within a week or 2 autumn has been naking its entrance and every year I am surprised and shocked to find that at the end of the summerbreak it really is the end of summer. Quite abruptly.
However this year's end of summer was greated with mixed feelings, since not only did the drought and heat leave us, so did our oldest daughter. She has moved to Uppsala, a universitycity a 2hrs drive away from here and yesterday I did the hardest thing I ever had to do as a dad. I had to let her go. She said her goodbye's to her mum in the morning as she went to work after which I drove my daughter to her new appartment. After having spent a large part of the morning and afternoon with her, taking care of the last things, I had to hug and kiss her, say goodbye, drive home and leave her behind. In a city where she does not know anyone and where she is all on her own. 15 years old, turning 16 in 2 months. That drive home was the longest one I ever did make and I had to stop one or two times to clear my misty eyes. Oh, she will come home during the weekends and holidays.... for now, but she's already starting to renegotiate the deal that she'd come home every weekend for the first half year. And I am quite sure she will make it. She's smart and stubborn enough for that. But she is not used to citylife and Swedish cities are not as safe as they used to be anymore either.
For us as parents a new era has made itself known and with the kids starting to leave home, I feel that in some way autumn has also starting making its way into our lives. We'll probably be repeating the same routine next year with our son.
At the end of summer we were also visited by former colleagues/friends from the Mrs. It felt real good to have proper conversations and discussions again, but they too had to leave. We were able to take a short hike, so I finally got out into the woods again.

Of course not all is doom and gloom. We had plenty of other pleasant things happening too, like the birth of 10 hatchlings! At one point we started missing hens, 3 in total. One we found, she was sitting on eggs under the brambles, one we had a suspicion regarding her location (big droppings, common for hatching hens) and one simply vanished. However one night we heard how the hen in the brambles was being taken by (presumably) a fox and the next morning the nest was abandonned. We loaned a broodingmachine and were able to hatch 10 out of 14 eggs and successfully found a new "mommy", another hen sitting on eggs in the henhouse.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sweden is burning!

Älvdalen earlier
Months of heat and above all drought have caused serious problems in the country I now call home. The most acute one are forestfires. They blossom up all over the country and firefighters and associated personel are being kept real busy nationwide. Many are relatively small fires and are under control or put out fairly rapidly, but right now there are 3 major fires (that I follow) raging in the region of central Sweden, in the provinces of Dalarna, Gävleborg and Jämtland.
Our province, Dalarna, has seen its share of fires, but our area has been spared so far, luckily, apart from a minor one, some 7 km to our north, which was taken care of quickly and effectively.
I can only hope that this situation will maintain that way, but looking at the weather forecast I can only see very high temperatures (for our area), blazing sun and even some rising wind. Firefighting crews and material are being worn down and out, so I do fear the problems are not over just yet.

Situation 2018-07-17
Thankfully Sweden was able to hire waterdropping helicopters and planes from Norway and Italy, but these can not remain operational idefinitely either. Personally I feel that it is madness that a country with such large wooded areas does not have such equipment of its own, especially after the disastrous events in 2014, where both lack of heavy equipment and blundering local and national authorities allowed for a massive area being laid to waste.

But once again authorities are not stepping up adequately and decisively. Our own municipally has no information on its website whatsoever, a lot of confusion and unclearity in regard to firebans is plaging communications and the national government is nowhere to be seen or heard. I feel that if there was a time for them to act, it would be now. An absolute and nationwide ban on all sorts of open fire should be declared. This is a national issue right now and it would with one stroke remove any and all uncertainties. But that is just my opinion.
What equally pisses me off is that there are still people out there, who simply disregard warnings and danger. People still bring out their barbecues, put them on the grass or near vegetation and happily grill away, thinking a bucket of water will take care of any events. Similar within the outdoor community, where folks still insist on the use of portable means of fire, like gascookers and such, claiming they know what they do, that it still is allowed and that they apparantly MUST have the coffee or lunch made on the spot.

Meanwhile current meteorological conditions are causing massive other problems too. The farmers are getting into trouble. Not only do I fear a complete disaster for many or most crops, but especially those with livestock are in trouble. The first cut of grass for winterfodder yielded less than 50% in many places and a second cut simply will not happen. The grass does not grow.
In and around our village every conceivable piece of grassland has been cut and harvested, some for the first or second time since we moved here 6 years ago, apart for a large field, which appears to be publically owned. I also read reports of farmers already having to slaughter their livestock, because there is no food for the animals, which will have longterm ramifications for the farmers and Sweden's homegrown foodsupply. Here too is the absence of governmentaction painfully obvious and any helpinitiatives come from private sources for as far as I know.
People growing their own fruit and vegetables at home or gather that in the woods, also see their crops go to waste,  if there even are any. Plants wither or fail to fruit. Foodprices will soar coming winter, I'm sure.

Either way I will volunteer to help as soon as my wife's car comes back from the workshop. It broke down a 2,5hr drive away from home last weekend and I will not leave them stranded at home, in a wooded area, when current risks are still so high. Because of the distance to the current hotsports (painfully literally) it is not an option to just drive back in an instant in case of an emergency. And such an emergency can pop up at any one time.

Stay safe out there!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Swiss man's dream

Last friday, the 13th, saw me heading out into the woods again. It had been a long time, but now there was a special occassion; I was about to show a visitor from Switzerland "some Swedish woods". I figure it should be worthwhile, so I looked for some suitable woods, not your average pineplantation. I ended up finding Fermansbo urskog, a natural reserve about 1,5 hrs drive from here. It is an old forest, protected from logging and with minimal interfering. It is also the on the southern edge of the area where that great forestfire raged 4 years ago, which should also make for some interesting scenery. Little did I know we got more then we bargained for....
Arriving at the right spot caused some confusion, as apparently the accessroad had been changed, but eventually we both found our way in; Pascal coming in from the south and me from the north. Pascal and I initially "met" through the Swedish bushcraftgroup on facebook and now that he visited Sweden we figure it might be a good opportunity to meet face to face..... And so we did at 08:30. It was forecast to be a hot day, so an early start was no excessive luxury.

After the initial introduction we set out to follow a marked track through the reserve, which would take us through both old and firedamaged forest resp. to doubleback toward the parking; all in all about 3km. Figured that would be sufficient in this heat and terrain.
The first part as said went through the old forest. And it was a sight for sore eyes. This is the way forest should be, very unlike the tidy pine-, spruce- or birchplantations one usually finds. Old trees, fallen over ones and a wide variety of undergrowth. The fallen over trees would gradually come to dominate the scene, but for now we enjoy the vibes of old trees. Such a forest has a very different feel to it. We enjoyed ourselves and after having crossed a now almost dry marshland we decided to take a break. Temperatures were rising fast and keeping hydrated was a keyissue!

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit
It was at this point that we came to exchange gifts, after the promised Swiss chocolate bars had already changed hands, and ended up in my cooler box, in the car. I had brought some rather modest ones; a patch and a pair of moose antlers. After Pascal told me he had seen moose, I stuck a pewter moose pin onto his veshmeshok (Russian rucksack) as well.
Picture; Pascal Streit
He had brought me a pair of swiss army pouches, which I hoped would fit my Swedish army cookset. It was then he showed me another item he used and liked, a Russian-style ponch; a plash palatka. His demonstration apparantly made my mouth water and my eyes glisten and he talked me into owning one..... His! A follow up post on those items will come soon. But the best gift was a small item. A small pouch, handmade by him from an old Swiss army wool blanket. I immediately fell in love with it. You probably know how I love wool and the quality and softness of this wool really is Swiss. I love the colour and design too, especially after it turned out that my old army compass fits perfectly!!
We ended up having an early lunch as well and talked about all sorts of things for quite some time too. Really was too bad that there was a complete fireban, since a freshly brewed coffee would have capped the otherwise perfect moment.
But we were to see for ourselves that any form of fire really would be a very bad idea indeed.
On our way we already had come across a substiantal section of the old forest, where the trees clearly had died, but were still standing. many of the trees had been marked with tape and
even more were losing their dark, mainly around the base or first meter up. It was quite a sight seeing all these light patches of wood, but we had not yet made the connection. We figured some disease or infestation at first. But then we came to the part that clearly had been affected by the fire. It was very clear that the fire had caused the damage low to, but mostly under ground. We saw many trees with clear burnmarks, but even more unsettling we found many trees with their roots burnt off. Even the plantmaterial around the roots had gone, exposing the burnt rootstumps, loosely clinging onto the rock underground. It was an ominous sight. Aweinspiring, humbling, sobering and apocalyptic.
The marked path was reestablished after the fire, but many strong winds had since toppled over the dead trees, deprived of their roots. Knowing what I know now I would strongly advise against entering this area under such conditions, since many more trees are clearly just waiting to be blown over.

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit
We kept on following the orange marked path and gradually we made our way out of this scene of carnage, all of a sudden finding ourselves surrounded by green once again. Here the track became different. it looked much older, less well kept and often hard to follow, forcing us to backtrack. However the track became more and more narrow and overgrown and we had to cross a bridge that clearly was in serious disrepair. I had a real sense that we were heading wrong, but the track was still marked orange and we were still roughly heading in the right direction.... generally.
Eventually the track come to a gravelroad and simply ended there. We turned southward, knowing (more hoping) that we would head toward a road that would lead to the gravelroad that would lead us to our parked cars. The sun was still out in force and the temperature out on that gravel road easily exceeded the forecast 26C. We had little option but to keep going, following the road. Going back through where we had come from was a lot less appealling.
We eventually made it back to our cars indeed, after having spent roughly 1,5 hours out in the sun on a course gravel road. However we did take breaks, drank enough and kept an easy pace. Still my feet were quite sore, when we reached our destination. I had been wearing my old, thin soled army boots and these perform good enough on soft forest underground. They are far less comfortable on underground such as mentioned.
Back at the cars, we sat down on a log and talked about this and that for more then an hour. Just sitting there and being there was as good as anything, but all good things come to an end eventually and we had to make our way back home. Mine was 1,5 hour drive northward.

On my way in I had come across a vaste area where next to nothing was standing anymore and I got a feeling of desolation, just driving through it. On my way home I stopped to look and take pictures.
All around me the trees had gone and bare rock had become exposed. Everything had burnt away. There were next to no stumps or tress on the ground left. All gone. Imagine a fire hot and strong enough to completely burn up fully grown trees, pine, spruce and birch. Gone.
A fire consuming the layer of peat and forestsoil, leaving only rock.....
Such force, such devastation.... Despite the heat I felt a shudder.
Yet the vegetation is returning after 4 years. Many trees are sprouting again. Mostly birch, but the occassional pine too and lots of (I think) rallarros/mjölkört (Epilobium angustifolium.
These vast expanses will have erased the scras of fire sooner then the place we visited today.where the trees will lie and decay for many a decade to come. here there hardly is such debris.

This most certainly was a day well spent. Meeting a new friend always makes it worthwhile, but also  otherwise it will be a memorable one.

Thank you Pascal! Thank you for the gifts, but more so for this time well spent.
And I sure do hope we will meet more often! You're always welcome at my place at any rate.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

It's been a while....

More then 3 months since I did the last post. A time during which a number of things happened, but mainly a time during which I battled with a depression. Something I go through every year around the march/april-period, but this year was quite different.
The usual springdepression kicked in rather late this year. I guess due to the lengthy winter, where we had a lot of snow far into april. The severity of the depression was accordingly. And then we went from winter to fullblown summer within a few weeks, not even a month and summer stayed up till now; hot and dry. Extremely hot and extremely dry actually. And I do not do well under such conditions. I become lethargic, tired, listless. This most certainly did not help with my condition and the next blow came at the end of may. I lost my job. Which felt like a real loss, despite it, in hindsight, draining my energy.
I pretty much just caved in..... Having in the meantime found a new pasttime, politics and social issues, really did nothing to make things better. Au contraire.... things just got worse. The dark vortex of doom and gloom once again opened itself up with utter despair looming in the depths of its gaping mouth. However I also found something valuable in all this, Something worth while. Something that, despite all the problems we face today, offered a glimpse of hope as social and political scenes are changing rapidly and profoundly. I also found wisdom and help, whilst browsing the various sites and youtube. I stumbled onto something that has become know as the "Intellectual dark web", a group of free thinkers
But, equally important, I found friends much closer to home. Friends that share a common interest in the outdoors and all things related. During these past few months we met up a few times; twice as a small company and once under the guise of the annual nation bushcraft Sverige meeting. The small meetings were balm to the soul, especialy the one surrounding the experimentation-theme, but I regret to say that the national meeting actually was quite disappointing and appears to have led or is leading to a rift or maybe even a break up between the local group we have and the club in general.

My experiment consisted of natural fabic dyeing. In this case an old Swedish M59 pair of pants, dyed with onionpeels and walnutshells. Rusty metal was use as a mordant. Because of time limits I had to do the 3 steps all in one go, meaning mordant, naterials and pants in the boilingpot.
You can see the outcome, which remains even after washing.

With each colour I added a tuft of wool to show the results more vividly.
From natural to onionpeel to walnut.

As for our homestead, my depression and the following heat and drought has led to a near complete standstill, when it comes to growing crops. We were very late with sowing, an afternoon of strong winds with even stronger gales lead to the premature death of our tunnelgreenhouse. The breaking down of equipment made that I seriously got behind in cutting grass and weeds, thus keeping them in check and right now the claysoil is rockhard, being thoroughly dried and baked. Working the soil is all but impossible.
More problems have occured. The heat made that our chickencoop saw an explosion of some form of infestation. Some form of lice, but these were effectively dealt with using some predatory bugs (Hypoaspis), so now we can enter the coop again without being swarmed by these buggers and feeling itchy all the time afterwards. An addition of diatomaceous earth (kiselgur in Swedish) in their earth/sandbath took care of the rest.
Another one are forestfires! They are popping up all over the place and the firebrigades are kept rather busy. They usually respond fast and adequate, so so far real extensive damage has been prevented, but we had a good scare when one broke out 7km to our north..... with the wind blowing in our direction! Keeping in mind the large forestfires we saw to our south 4 years ago, bug out bags were packed at once. We need not have, but it was a stark reminder and a good drill.
The cause? Someone thought it necessary to still have an open fire, despite a complete fireban in the entire province!! About now wide areas of Sweden actually have implemented a complete ban on any form of open fire.

The location in question
picture; Christoffer Olerås.

But all things eventually come to an end and I can see the end of this downperiod approaching. I am feeling better, less down and angry and motivation to get things done is returning as well. My apetite for reading is back full force and I am also in the process of picking up other hobbies again.
So I feel it maybe is a good time to pick up things here too.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Perpetual winter

At least it feels like that. A winter that is everlasting. April is knocking at our doors, yet outside it still looks and feels like early februari. We set the clock to summertime, but apart from the rapidly increasing hours of daylight, it still looks like midwinter. There's still a whole lot of centimeters of snow on the ground. Some places up to 40 and the night temperatures still drop steeply, only this week down to -18C. But during the days we have sunshine and the snow and ice are melting away ever so slowly at those spots the rays reach the ground and rise the temperatures to just above 0C. It is windy too and these conditions make that we are not being flooded, but that the water melts and evaporates or runs away. But I also know that the bottomlayers of the snow are ice and watersaturated snow and when temperatures do go up, all that water will be released over a short period of time. Many waterflows have their dams and sluises opened, resulting in a very low waterlevel, ready to take on that deluge.
Spring is indeed around the corner. Whooperswans have been coming in, I spotted a male blackbrid the other week as well as the first buzzard, circling over wooded areas. Flies, some mosquitos and even a lost moth showed themselves too. And with all these changes, so my mood changed too. I am once again facing my springdepression and this year it is looking to become pretty bad. So bad that I even saw myself forced to cancel my attendance for the Basic 2 course, run by Bushcraft Sverige. I am very reluctant to face a group of people and see myself being demanded to interact with those round the clock for 2 full days. My job sees to it that all my social energy is being depleted during the week and the weekends I must keep to myself, just to stop me from tipping the balance.
But it will pass. It always does and I still have the national meeting early june to look forward to.

So.... what is keeping me occupied these days then?
Luckily, there's always this pile of books next to my chair. I like to keep it well stocked with titles still to read. Right now I am working my way through Douglas Murray's "Strange death of Europe", a book that, while not being for the novice in English, I would really recommend.... no almost demand for anyone to read. Anyone who has the slightest interest, socially and politically, in what's going on in this continent or the western world at large at present day. Very enlightening, very straight forward and very unliked by the current establishment and it's supporters. So of course it gets labeled "far right", "racist" and all the other labels socalled "lefties" like to stick to folks that do not agree with them. That alone for me is a reason to check these sources out and form my own opinion. One that, I dare say, is mostly much more based on knowledge, facts and information than the average politician or journalist would like or expresses themselves.
Related to that I had a discussion with my family the other day because I felt the need or desire to become more active in a socially/political kind of way by expressing what I had learnt or seen in the way I am most prolific and comfortable with; writing. I thought a blog in which to share information, directly from the source, maybe a book describing my journey and views. Things like that. But my kids forbade me in no uncertain terms to do so! Doing so most likely would affect and damage them. They'd become labeled as "the kids from......." and that would certainly not help them during their further lives as students or employmentseekers. You see, in Sweden discussion when holding any non-conforming or even opposing views from the political left can, and more likely will, have serious, negative consequences.
I wish this was a bad april 1st-joke.

But it is also easter, so I wish you all a happey easter, wherever you are.
This is about as close to easter as I get.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

I could tell you about.......

It has been a while since I last wrote something. Somehow the drive to do so has diminished. I guess me working and meeting lots of people now on a daily basis has greatly lessened my need to seek interaction online. It is not that nothing happens anymore.
I could tell you about how we got a lot of snow, about 60cm of it, followed by thaw, followed by another 60 or so. And still snow comes.
I could tell you about how we got a wooden sled for the dogs and how we tried that and ended up frollicking about in the snow with the whole family.
I could tell you about how Rex and Lester had their maiden-run, pulling someone on skis over the white expanses of a frozen lake.
I could tell you about how a flu can seriously cripple you, when trying to live as simple as possible, as I am experiencing right now.
I could tell you about the white wonders we have has and about how tired we are starting to get of it.

                                                   This was our place a month ago...

Ohh.... what the heck. Why not.
Got nothing better to do anyway. Well, I do actually, but I just can not. Even a short walk with the dogs leaves me breathless and fatigued. I have become homebound by a flu or a nasty string of a common cold, which has lodged itself into my airways, with all uncomfortable consequences. And so far only my wife has escaped this misery, our son actually getting downed twice!

But winter has been for real this year!
Like I said we had snow. Lots and lots of snow. It makes for pretty pictures and landscapes, completely transforms the landscape and since it is not really cold, only had one coldsnap down to -24C, it is quite enjoyable too. If you do not take into account all that snowshovelling we've been doing. But that's exercise during the cold months, so to speak. I had actually hoped to learn how to ski, but somehow that did not materialize. Short days, little sunlight, shovelling, heating the house, carrying and splitting wood, taking care of dogs, chickens and household AND a 25hr a week job...... leaves little time or energy to do anything else active. Next winter I will make sure that all the wood is ready cut and split, with a proper supply right next to and inside the house.
I have a feeling that winter will last at least well into march, the forecast showing cold and grey days into the beginning of next month. And I fear that as thaw will come eventually all that snow and ice will start to melt all at once. It'll get messy and wet. Well at least the drought issues will be solved for a while!

The days have been lengthening for 2 months now and spring equinox is only some 4 weeks away! But the absence of sunlight is getting to me, to us. Weather's been grey mostly, not many cold and sunny days. For the first time ever we are reaching for artificial help in the form of vitamin D tablets and these do help. But how we miss the sun!!
The birds hav started to stir. They call and flutter. It is quite noticeable after the silence of winter, but there are a lot less birds than other years. Their numbers and their flocks do not appear as big as previously. We have a couple of crows that has chosen ut garden as their residence. Our roosters keep a close eye on those two, when they come down to "feast" on whatever is left of the chickenfood, but so far the crows appear friendly. I don't mind. I kind of like them, but would have prefered ravens. Those I like even better.