Thursday, June 23, 2016

I'm a case study.....

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All at the same time....

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

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

Monday, June 13, 2016

Förläggningstält 12

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

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

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

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

The stove and dryingrack

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

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

Sunday, June 12, 2016

George Orwell's final warning

"In our world there will be no emotions except, fear, triumph and self abasement. The Sex instinct will be eradicated, we shall abolish the organism, there will be no loyalty except loyalty to the party. There will always be the intoxication of power. Always at every moment there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future imagine a boot stamping on a human face forever. The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don't let it happen. It depends on you."

I found this video rather by accident and I found it really chilling...

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

I saw the light....

or lightning that is.... And plenty of it too, yesterday.
It had been a hot (at least for me) sweltering day. One of those days the sun beams down on you so hard, that stepping out into the sunlight actually hurts..... or at least is very uncomfortable instantly.
I was a bit worried about our newly planted veggies, despite having watered then thoroughly early in the morning.
Had no time for that the night before, since we went to visit Johan, one of the authors of the Olja fär blåbar book and blog. He has made 2 split-offs (or off splits? or simply split??) from his bee populations and he needed boxes in which to put them, so they can be picked up later and be taken home by me or us (in only 2 weeks. YAY!!). We had a look at his beehives, got a tour around and had a nice long chat and by the time we came home it was 10pm. I really did not feel like standing there watering the plants for another hour or so.... The image is from his blog by the way. I was too busy enjoying myself,  looking at the bees going in and out and seeing one, being busy getting rid of a dead colony member. Simply toss the body out, without making much of a fuss as we humans do....

At the end of the afternoon the wind started to pick up again and on the horizon clouds were forming. Judging by those signs and the headache I had been having all day I knew we were in for some thunderstorms. Good thing we did not visit the bees that day! They'd bee a lot less friendly....
The storms kept building, but did not reach us. They reached other places, like the school my wife works or the town were our teens go to school, but not our place. When they came home they told stories about having hail as big as marbles or bigger, about torrential downpours.... and I looked a bit worryingly to the skies above and the fragile plants and greenhouses below.....
After dinner pressure and tension started building again. This time were in for it! And yes, the first thunderstorms of the season became fact. Now the special thing about this place is its location, surrounded on 3 sides by hills, only the west is open and 3 lakes around us, makes that those storms get swooped in, are being forced upward and kind of get hung up over the ridges. The open areas of water make that the thunder really rolls around through the valley, as if some huge dumptruck dumps a massive loads of rocks, that bounce around on the metal surface. The remaining metal ore and water make sure lightning will strike in the immediate area, so noise and visual displays are guaranteed!
All we had to do, was wait for it..... And we were not disappointed.

I think thunderstorms are fascinating, even a thing of beauty.
All electrical appliances were removed from their sockets and we went out onto the balcony, watching the flashes of lightning, counting the seconds between light and thunder (x300 is the amount of meters in distance) and enjoyed the show. And what a show it was. Not so much violent, but scenic.
We saw the clouds drifting in from the west, reaching the end of the valley and curl inward, before they were forced up and over the hills. A thick, dark and churning ring of clouds around us, but we remained in the eye of the storm. Massive downpours up on the hills, barely a speck of moisture on our place.....Gusts of wind bending the trees, rolling thunder around us and lightning around us. Some were horizontal.
This continued pretty much all evening and though the night in varying intensity, but during the night the rain came...... And plenty of it! Luckily no hail or biblical downpours, but a steady drumming rain. Everything looks refreshed and revived in the morning and the heat has disappeared.
Now there is wind in the air, which is cool and fresh, the wind itself a tad cold, a friendly sun in the sky, birds singing and calling around us and the dogs are happy and joyful again. They really suffered during the heat!

And during the day's walk we came across a wonderful surprise, the most lovely scene I have seen in awhile....
In the middle of a field, deep yellow with buttercup, a shiny coat of fur, blazing with a deep copper.... A roedeer and her offspring. No more than a day, maybe 2 old I guess. Maybe she gave birth last night?
Despite the obvious lack of camouflage, the dogs did not spot them and neither did they spot us. The wind blew in between us and we were walking on soft ground. They were maybe 15 meters away from us. So near I could see the spots on the young ones fur. I had time to take my cellphone, take a handful of pictures (why never a camera when you need one?!?) and took a good look at them.
Only when the deer raised her head, did Lester spot the movement and he did his 3B-routine; bezerk bouncing bunny and that gave us away. The deer was startled, but only when Lester landed on top of Rex and the latter growled at the first, did she leap off, followed by the little one. Which can be seen right in front of the deer's left hind leg.

And this one's just because I think it is equally beautiful, if not more.
Saved this one from the greenhouse, in which it got trapped. It wouldn't let go of me and it sat there for a few minutes... Magnificent creature...

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

...where I belong...

There's just so much going on these days! I do not know where to begin.
If I thought the grass and weeds  were growing fast during may..... June brought a week of fine, warm and sunny weather and that stepped up the speed even more!
And I am so glad I did get that trimmer AND the extra battery. I could not have kept up otherwise. At least I know for next year I will not be fighting a hopeless battle, as I can start early and keep matters under control. Using rabbits and chickens to keep it in check is a no go for sure. And I discovered a hidden surprise in all that high grass; snails! And plenty of them, despite the warm and dry weather. Not good. They'll multiply rapidly when conditions get more moist and that right next to fresh, crispy green vegetables.... Mmmno. The grassy patch idea is shelved once more.

It looked like nothing I had sown outside the greenhouse had made it. The beans rotted in the ground, the onions and carrots never came up and neither did the spinach. We have 2 plants of those.... And some radishes with damaged and spotty leaves that are a far cry from the lush greenness that the rest of the garden is showing. The potatoes on the other hand seem to be thriving. The are already above ground and the garlic is going strong.

The other night I was busy in the garden, way past dinnertime, which happens quite frequently these days ( and which may come as a shock to those not familiar with gardening, homesteading and such. The picture pretty gardens in the magazines and online do not sleep after office hours), when I walked past the large rowan next to the stairs. I stopped, looked and listened as the tree was buzzing with life. It was as if the air itself was vibrating. The sudden warm and sunny weather had caused the blooms to open and many were taking advantage of that. Several species of hoverflies and bumblebees were zooming this way and that and I even spotted wasps joining in the feeding (and pollinating) frenzy. I lost a decent half hour of gardenworking time there. With that many flowers being fertilized we might expect a lot of berries. Which is good, because when dried they are excellent chicken winterfood. Or so I read. And speaking of winterfood; we missed out on the nettles.... again. And so I let them grow and will cut them later, tie them into bushels and let them dry as well. Again chickenfood.

This past week saw me very busy in the garden. Long days in the sun made me look as if I had been on a holiday, except that I had not become fatter. ;) Putting the trimmer to work until both batteries are depleted. Then I have to put the thing down and do something else while the batteries charge up again. Which is good, because this way the arms can recover from wielding and squeezing the button. On the places where I had room, I tried using the scythe. A completely new and different skill and technique. But it felt awesome, good, natural in a way. Even the sharpening of the blade, which I did with a stick shaped sharpening stone. This is the way....

And spending an entire weekend in the garden, together with my wife, planting all the things we had sown... That was a definite high!! Seeing the plantbeds filling up with small greens, planning and adjusting as we went along. We definitely have too little space! (No, I did not sow too much. Well, maybe a little....) We need the area the large greenhouse is standing on. So We will take it down soon and create 2 more plant beds as per the original plans. How and where we will use the large greenhouse next year.... that remains to be seen. Probably under the large birch, next to the kitchen window. It'll ruin the view though....
I am glad I wrote down the plans, steps and progress. A garden journal is vital. Keeping it up to date too. What I also wrote down are the soil conditions. The untreated areas are hard as a rock and I am beginning to wonder if that might have contributed to the non-germinating of the beans. I definitely need to get a lot of compost into those areas! The areas I covered with the old stable manure are easy to work with and in. The weeds in those beds are easily removed or weeded and the wilt rapidly in the sun. The large amount of natural material on top keeps the underlying soil cool and moist. So mulching under these conditions is a must! I was afraid that moist and rotting plant remains might harbour snails and slugs too, but no; the material itself dries pretty well, making conditions unfavorable for crop munching creepies.
Much to my surprise I had jumped to conclusions waayyy too soon! There are radishes, beets and carrots after all! And camomile. There are small spinach plants too. My wife's keen eye spotted those. A good thing I only weeded what I for sure knew were weeds; grasses, nettles, lupinus and other ones, of which I do not know the name. The onions however remain invisible.

I also got busy "building", erecting our second greenhouse. Much smaller then the other one being 2 meters shorter. But the walls are higher and it is slightly wider + has a back- and front entrance. More ventilation at the sides too. This greenhouse is meant to grow tomatoes, paprika and peppers and now it is packed with those, along with basil, carrots and marigold (tagetes). I needed to create an extra bed, which I made with the cardboard packaging in which the greenhouse came (how's that for recycling?), added a layer of compost on top (which still contained small twigs) and topping it off with a layer of  cheap plantingsoil we had left from the sowing. In between I watered these layers well, so the cardboard will not suck up all the moisture and the wet weight of the soil and compost will press it all down firmly.

I have made sure that the plant beds are anything but monocultures. During the planning stage I read and googled a lot on companion planting. This means that with your main crop you plant plants that are beneficial to that crop, either by feeding them or by repelling pests or by avoiding certain combinations, as they are counter productive. Marigold (tagetes) seems to be a good, overall pest deterrent as is calendula (which incidentally is also good for you) and nasturtium is good at keeping butterflies away from kale-species. Dill works in similar ways. The three sisters-system I mentioned in a previous post means the beans feed the maize, by adding nitrogen to the soil, whilst the pumpkins suppress weeds.
All is done now. In time before my full time working summer will begin. That rules out our trip to Norway unfortunately, but it will beef up our finances considerably. As a little extra I am made responsible for showing and teaching the boys at work all about Swedish nature; the allemansrätten, animals (No, there are no crocodiles in the lakes), plants and introducing them to the woods in general. Most know quite dry living conditions, mostly.

The temperatures remain summerly high and the sun is blazing. A good thing that we have access to lakewater, so we can properly water our newly planted crops. While I was planting the last bed, my wife was busy in the kitchen. We have plenty of rhubarb, so she made rhubarb lemonade again. 1 part lemonade, 4 parts water and we have a delicious and refreshing drink!!
9 liters of it, which gives us 36 liters to drink. That lasts us a month..... maybe.

And as icing on the cake did we have a fire at our garden fireplace, where we gathered with the whole family (after some persuasion). It felt good sitting there, using the place again (we did not last year. Not once!) and having the whole family there. It is so easy losing contact with teenage kids, even or especially your own. I felt blessed after last week. It all felt so good.
This is my place. All of this. This is where I belong.....

Friday, June 3, 2016

A disaster warning??

Barack Obama warns his people to prepare for disaster.....
Does he know something we do not... yet??

More and more sources announce everyday that the whole mess in Syria is instigated by western countries, the US in lead, that ISIS and Al Qaeda are US sponsored, that Russia is being put under more and more pressure to (re)act and that our current banking- and financial system is on the verge of collapse, etc.etc. All these happenings are correlated.
Meanwhile Sweden is being pushed to join NATO, a decision many Swedes seem to oppose absolutely, yet politicians push through anyway. Recent decades of military budgetcuts has forced the nations defence to its knees, forcing it to choose a side. Coïncidently there has been a long ongoing campaign to create a scare of and for the Big Russian Villain. Convenient....
Civil unrest is becoming mainstream and the pressure with the ordinary population is mounting....

I will not bother you with links. You can google yourself, if you dare.

But when the US president starts warning the citizens to be prepared for a disaster, then I get the feeling there is something in the air and that not only the US population should be prepared. If the US implodes, it will have a cascading effect on the rest of the world and thus everyone in it.

Barack Obama Warns Americans ‘To Be Prepared For A Disaster’

Barack Obama At FEMA - Public DomainWhen Barack Obama speaks to the public, it is very rare that he does so without a specific purpose in mind.  So why is he urging Americans “to be prepared for a disaster” all of a sudden?  On May 31, Obama took time out of his extremely busy schedule to deliver an address at the FEMA National Response Coordination Center in Washington.  During his speech, he stressed that every American is responsible for preparing for disasters, and that includes “having an evacuation plan” and “having a fully stocked disaster supply kit”.  These are basic steps that I have been encouraging people to do for years, but if they won’t listen to me, perhaps they will listen to the man currently residing in the White House.  The following excerpt from Obama’s speech comes directly from the official White House website
One of the things that we have learned over the course of the last seven and a half years is that government plays a vital role, but it is every citizen’s responsibility to be prepared for a disaster.  And that means taking proactive steps, like having an evacuation plan, having a fully stocked disaster supply kit.  If your local authorities ask you to evacuate, you have to do it. Don’t wait.
This speech was timed to coincide with the beginning of the hurricane season, although hurricanes have not posed much of a threat lately.
In fact, a major hurricane has not made landfall in the United States for 127 straight months.
But without a doubt, we all need to be preparing for disaster.  Hurricanes can create a short-term emergency that can last for a few days, but there are other threats that could create a major emergency that could potentially last for an extended period of time.  That list of potential threats includes a major volcanic eruption, a natural or engineered pandemic, a west coast earthquake, a New Madrid earthquake, a tsunami on either the east or west coasts, a meteor impact, Islamic terror, war,an EMP burst that takes down the power grid, cyberwarfare, economic collapse, and civil unrest resulting in the imposition of martial law.
Of course the items that I just mentioned are not mutually exclusive.  In fact, in different scenarios we could actually see multiple events happen in rapid succession.
It is interesting to note that during his speech Barack Obama also noted that the American people seem to have become very complacent about getting prepared…
And what we’ve been seeing is some public complacency slipping in; a large portion of people not having preparedness kits, not having evacuation plans.
This is exactly what I have been noticing as well.  There appears to be a tremendous amount of apathy out there, and relatively few people really seem to feel much urgency to get prepared these days.
My contacts in the emergency preparedness industry have been telling me that sales are way down right now.  There was a big peak last fall, but since then it is like interest in prepping has just fallen off the map.
Ultimately, those companies are going to be okay because interest will pick back up shortly as global events begin to spiral completely out of control.  However, of much greater concern is the fact that people have not been using this period of relative calm constructively.
Just like we have seen in Venezuela, time to prepare eventually runs out.  And someday there will be millions of parents that are absolutely horrified when their children come to them crying out for food and they don’t have anything to give to them because they didn’t heed the warnings and they didn’t get prepared.
When that day arrives, many of those families may be forced to turn to whatever help the government is offering at the time.
One more thing that I found particularly noteworthy about Obama’s speech was that he said that there is now “a FEMA app” that can direct you to the nearest “FEMA shelter” in the event of a major emergency.
If you need information about how to put together an evacuation plan, how to put together a disaster preparedness kit, as Craig said, we’ve got an app for everything now.  We have a FEMA app in English and in Spanish to help you prepare your family for a disaster.  You can update the National Weather Service alerts.  You can get safety tips for more than 20 kinds of hazards.  It provides you directions to nearby shelters.
Could you envision yourself and your family having to take refuge in a “FEMA shelter” someday?
If not, you should do what you can to get prepared now.  Over the next couple of days, my wife and I will be releasing a couple of new videos about preparation on our YouTube channel.  I hope that many of you will check them out.
Unlike Venezuela, it looks like we may still have a little bit more time to prepare for what is ahead.  Some people will relax and use this time to party, but those that are wise will work diligently and will do what they can to get ready for the exceedingly challenging times that are rapidly approaching.
Hopefully you are listening to the warnings and are heeding what the watchmen are saying.
If not, the consequences for what will happen to you and your family will ultimately be on your own hands.

Remarks by the President on Hurricane Preparedness -- FEMA National Response Coordination Center

FEMA National Response Coordination Center
Washington, D.C. 
11:50 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  My important responsibility as President of the United States is to keep our people safe.  And that's why I just met with key members of my Homeland Security team, including our FEMA Director, Craig Fugate, here at FEMA’s National Response Coordination Center.  And Craig and his team gave us updates on preparations for the 2016 hurricane season, which starts tomorrow.
All of us have seen the heartbreak, the damage and, in some case, the loss of life that hurricanes can cause.  And as climate continues to change, hurricanes are only going to become more powerful and more devastating.  Now, states play the primary role in preparing for and responding to disasters.  But our team here works around the clock to make sure that those states and the people living in those states have everything that they need to get the job done. 
One of the things that we have learned over the course of the last seven and a half years is that government plays a vital role, but it is every citizen’s responsibility to be prepared for a disaster.  And that means taking proactive steps, like having an evacuation plan, having a fully stocked disaster supply kit.  If your local authorities ask you to evacuate, you have to do it. Don't wait.  
And so one of the biggest, most important messages that we're going to be delivering throughout hurricane season is that you cannot judge the dangerousness of a hurricane based on the fact that in the past it dissipated or it missed you.  If your local authorities say that you need to start evacuating, you need to start evacuating and get it done.  Because, oftentimes, despite the enormous progress that we've made technologically and in terms of forecasts, the way that urban centers are designed today, even in areas that are not big metropolises, evacuations take time and people have to respond.  
And what we've been seeing is some public complacency slipping in; a large portion of people not having preparedness kits, not having evacuation plans.  We've been stagnant a little bit with respect to the number of people, the percentage of people who respond to an evacuation order.  All that has to pick up, because we want to make sure that, although it's hard to prevent property damage, that we are doing everything we can to prevent loss of life.
If you need information about how to put together an evacuation plan, how to put together a disaster preparedness kit, as Craig said, we've got an app for everything now.  We have a FEMA app in English and in Spanish to help you prepare your family for a disaster.  You can update the National Weather Service alerts.  You can get safety tips for more than 20 kinds of hazards.  It provides you directions to nearby shelters.  
So I would encourage every American, no matter where you live, to stay vigilant, to check -- I will repeat that -- that is -- check that regularly to make sure your family is prepared for severe weather.
Finally, I just want to thank all the outstanding public servants not only at FEMA, but at NOAA, which does a lot of our forecasting.  Our National Hurricane Center -- Rick Knabb does a great job.  Some of you guys have seen him on TV when things happen.  When I came into office, I think FEMA was an organization that was still, as Craig put it, wrapped around the axel.  It now exemplifies the extraordinary role that effective government agencies and the people who work there can play in making our lives better, in saving lives, in helping people pick themselves back up after they’ve gotten hit with a tremendous blow.
So I want to publicly acknowledge not only the outstanding work that Craig has done, the leadership that he’s provided here at FEMA, but everybody at FEMA, because they have dealt with everything -- hurricanes, storms, tornadoes, flooding, fires.  And in every situation, FEMA has been there on time, ready.  And I think it's a testament to their effectiveness that very rarely, if ever, have you heard a complaint from a governor or a mayor or a local community about a lack of responsiveness when it comes to FEMA, no matter what the disaster is.
But having said all that, having been really proud of the way that FEMA has operated, and all the agencies involved in disaster preparedness have operated over the last seven years -- seven and a half years, what we also know is it only takes one.  It just takes one big disaster for us to really see some severe impacts.  What we're always worried about are the things we don't know, things we can't anticipate, things that we haven't seen before.  And that is why it's so important to make sure that every American, every family participate actively in getting prepared.  And if we do that, then we're going to have the kind of resilience that we're all looking for.
So thank you very much for the great work that all of you are doing.  And we're going to keep on being forward-leaning throughout this hurricane season to make sure that we're doing everything we can.  We can't control the weather, but we can control our responses to it.  And you’ve got a government here who’s ready to help.
Thanks, everybody.
11:58 A.M. EDT

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Was it worth it?

Sitting out there on  the balcony..... a sunny quiet late may morning...
Not a single man made sound to be heard, listening to the birds calling, hearing the buzz of the bumblebees as they visit the blooming comfrey; a favorite of them. I can not help but wondering if i should really cut that down. It is starting to overgrow that slope and spreading like wildfire, but the majestic massiveness of the plants has a beauty of its own. Topped by those delicate blue flowers so eagerly sought after by those fluffy buzzers. Buttercups, the downy heads of seeding dandelions and comfrey in bloom.... a lovely image.
I hear a gull screaming up there somewhere and my eyes trace the light blue sky above...
There!! There it is, fighting off a buzzard that apparently came to near the gull's nest. They swirl and dodge, flapping wings and extend talons. Then the buzzard is chased away far enough and everything turns ''quiet'' again.
I keep looking at the buzzard as it continues drawing circles against the blue. Not a single flap of the wings,  only slight adjustments to capture the airflow and alter its course.  Buzzards seem to like this particular spot; meadows, lakes and clusters of trees, all concentrated within a few 1000 square meters. Good hunting grounds and good thermals I suppose.

I rush in  to grab the camera. I have to try..... and then my eye starts seeing other things too; the way the sunlight illuminates the land and plants, the different shades of green in the leaves. The aspen a bronze green, the birches a slight greyish green, the bird cherry a deep green, the rowan a full, bright green. I noticed how full the bloom of our new appletree is. Saw that on other apples in the area as well; large clouds of white embedded in the green of the land. Large patches on the meadows have turned a deep yellow with blooming dandelions. I just wished the bees would have been here already!! They'd have a feeding bonanza! No, I will not cut down the comfrey. I'll let it grow and try to limit it to one area. Too valuable a plant as a feeding source. And of course as an addition to the compost and as a liquid fertilizer as well.

I look across the garden. How overgrown  it has become in such a short time. How lush and colorful too. I think of the grass trimmer I bought. It sure will come in very handy to keep that growth under control.
I also think of the mistake I made in purchasing that one, thinking I made a good deal by buying last years model for a good price..... only to find out after delivery that it did not come with  battery or charger! Had to buy those separately. And they were no longer in stock so I had to order those elsewhere. It set me back more than I liked!

And then my mind turned to all those other purchases we made recently. The extra greenhouse, the car and trailer. The beekeeping stuff... Many small bits 'n' bobs too. The trip we needed to make to Stockholm, to the Dutch embassy, 2 visits to the dentist for my wife, paying back the social service......  The only thing that wasn't actually necessary was the military tent, but I will need that in february and it will come in handy during the summer... hopefully. Why is it that when you get cash, you need to pay big bills or have large expenses all of a sudden? Or is it the other way around??
And the funny thing is that I often calculate such purchases in time, not money. How long do I need to work in order to get the cash I need to buy something? The trimmer cost me two 12 hour workdays and that hurt. It will make the gardening a lot easier later on, but still.  The little greenhouse a little over one day, but that will repay itself in fresh tomatoes, peppers and paprikas. Well, that actually isn't exactly true. I sold my 4x4 opel and paid for the greenhouse and beekeeper gear that way.
The money for the Pajero and the trailer we had to borrow and that I really did not like. It is a relatively small loan however and the merits of that are already showing. Now we do have the room for all of us, including dogs. Now we have vastly increased logistical capacities. And that is already paying off.... I hauled to full loads of transport pallets home for free. These will serve as basis for our cosy gardencorner and henhouse. Much of the wood can be used for the construction of the latter too and the rest will serve as firewood coming winter. We can also transport cattle if needs be and it turns out that that is becoming increasingly possible and may be necessary next year...
The trip to Stockholm was another costly issue. A 400km round trip, because we had to buy new passports for both me and my oldest daughter. My wife came along, since that was mandatory, according to the info on the homepage. Turns out it was not.... One complete workday wasted. However we did get some new information on changing citizenship and that made a lot of difference. Of course we went shopping and we thoroughly enjoyed the visit to a café and had a huge cappuccino with a Dutch stroopwafel and generally enjoyed being there. We so miss this; being able to go out to a cosy café, have some good coffee or a drink and just enjoy the good life, preferably with friends, but together works just as well. We also came home with some books. So was it worth it? We could've saved a lot of cash if some bureaucrat wouldn't have been so tight up. It wouldn't have made the least bit of difference to her. On the other hand it was great to be out, spend the day with the ladies the way we did, we got some valuable information and a couple of very nice and very useful books.

Later today I heard another racket. Several gulls were calling loudly and now some crows had joined the choir. The buzzard had returned and it had brought its mate! The calls seemed to rally more birds as I saw a handful of jackdaws rushing into the "arena", immediately charging at the crows! But their attention was quickly diverted and with joint effort 3 species of birds worked together to fight off a forth one. Amazing!!
I also did try the trimmer and I was reasonably impressed by its capabilities! It definitely will lighten the workload and save me many an hour of grass cutting. And this means that the plan with the removal of the wood chips and ground cloth will be put into practice.

So one can ask one self:"Was it all worth it?".
I for one can say:"yes, it was". Every spending, no matter how big or small, will yield a substantial reward. The car and trailer increased logistics, the coffee and closer relationship with my daughter, based on shared time and experience, the books wisdom and ease of mind, the beekeeping stuff is self explanatory. Heck, in case of an emergency with the car, trailer and tent we are even capable of relocating fast and still have a heated place to live in!
That is what we have learned these last years, even decade. Spend your hard earned cash wisely. Sometimes you need to take a loan. More often you don't need to. Our current economical system is based on impulse buying or a false feeling of need. Think and rethink.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Patience and poverty fatigue

A post on Corina's blog (marblemount homestead) about death & dying people and on living your dreams and Renee's responses to that prompted me to do something with that. To do a post on that.... since I can really relate to all of that.
Now where to begin?
I wrote about Jenkinson's book "Die wise". Those who read my posts on that know a little, those who read the book know a lot more on the subject. The final realisation that it could be my, our turn at any given moment made a big difference in the way I live my life these days. I try not to take things for granted anymore. Not my life, not that of my wife or our children and not that of those around us; human or not. All that we see, do or experience every new day is a gift and it has made me appreciate that so much more. Yes, I do get annoyed, angry or argue with others (well, the kids mainly. I do not bother with the rest that much anymore, really), but I also try to make sure that our ways do not part having hard feelings. I do not say "I love you", since I feel that those are mere words. I try to make them feel and understand from within that I do. An extra hug for example does so much more than words, especially if you really open up when you do it. Words are just air and sounds. Actions is what defines someone.

Now the impatience part is something I have written about and it still is an issue regularly. But I am working on it. I remembered that a colleague, who was pretty close, once told me that I am an emotional man. I live by and with emotions, I feel my way through life. Feelings dominate my being... She was so very right.
And sometimes I feel I am running out of time, that I do not have enough time to accomplish all I want to do within the timeframe that I want to do it in. And that goes for small things, like walking the dogs in a pleasant and calm way to big things like creating a fully functioning homestead with all that that implies.
And that is where the gardening comes in. I once read that gardeners grow old, because they need to practice patience to see things grow and to plan long ahead. The need to live to see their plans unfold. And it is true. I can actually be patient enough to watch a plant grow, see it develop over time and see my plans unfold over the years. So I am trying to use that knowledge on other aspects of my life as well. I picture my kids growing up, finding their own way, seeing them develop their own characters and in turn that makes me see them differently today. The same goes for the dogs; I try to see them as fully trained, happy, active dogs, plunging through a foot of snow, their tongues lolling out on one side of their mouths, almost with a smile on their face as they pull a sled. It makes me smile and it quiets my bubbling temper.
I still do get impatient and temperamental, of course. It is hard to unlearn a behavioural pattern, but I will get there in the end. I will see myself grow and develop into that wise, white bearded grandpa.... if I am given that time. if not, I will make sure the ones I leave behind will have good memories of me, until I completely fade away in time.

And than there is the issue of poverty and how it shapes you, can push you down and wear you out. Living your life for years having to flip every penny tenfold, before spending it.... It does wear you out. It really does. But is also shapes you, defines your life, colors it and makes you so much more appreciative on the things you do have; material or immaterial. Enjoying the scent of freshly cut grass doesn't cost anything and if you have nothing else, you will enjoy it so much more. Buying that wool sweater at the second hand store for a few bucks makes you enjoy its comforting warmth for years to come. That jar of homemade marmalade, made from handpicked fruit, cooked and canned in your own kitchen makes that it tastes so much better than store bought and not simply because the ingredients are better. There is satisfaction in it and there is no better flavour enhancer than that!

We have had our years of poverty and these last few months we do not have to struggle that hard any more. But it has changed us fundamentally. Now when we get our paychecks we spend quite a bit of cash. Oh yeah. But everytime we do it, it almost feels wrong. And often not even almost! We feel guilty, when we spend money on a cup of cappuccino at a café and we feel almost equally guilty when we buy "trinkets" like a "new" phone for one of the kids or something like that. Another car for instance. Now that one almost physically hurt, especially since it is not an exactly economical car.
We think and weigh, discuss and rethink..... We no longer just rush off and spend. We have become much more conscious about it. And we enjoy and appreciate the things we do buy.
So yes, it has colored our lives too.

And that's when I realised that it are things like these that give color to our every day drab lives! It is things like the up and down, especially the little up during longer downs that give flavour to the daily routine soup.

People who experience things like that..... They are the lucky ones!!!

Friday, May 27, 2016

The progress of our garden

I am reconsidering the use of the sideboards or wooden planks on the sides of the plant beds. The frost has made them rise from the ground, creating an opening under which the "weeds" were able to move in.
I am also reconsidering the use of those woven, weed suppressing groundcover cloth and wood chips. First of all that is manmade, artificial(plastic) fibre that doesn't break down. A less than environmental friendly alternative, both in manufacturing and in waste. I would need to exchange the stuff already in use, since that turns out to be absolute rubbish, tearing up like paper. The other side is that, in order to get those woodchips, I need a machine that requires energy to operate and more twigs and branches than my garden provides, so extra transport. Again, not as I would like to have it.
However once everything is in place it would be virtually maintenance free, apart from spreading out shredded material the garden provides every once in awhile.
Our youngest daughter thought of a way to keep our hens and rabbits; flexible "pens"; stakes of metal with netting or mesh attached, creating a flexible and flowing enclosure to contain chickens and rabbits. She drew this idea out on paper, when we were discussing various ideas and options to keep chickens and rabbits (things like mobile coops and such) and first we and than I developed the idea further; we could use the grass(over)grown paths between the beds. The animals could be feeding on the grasses, weeds, seeds and insects, yet without gaining access to the plant beds and the crops therein! Feeding animals, clipping the grass and weeds AND pest control all into one, whilst using all the space we have available.  This solution however would mean the purchase of bunny- and chickenproof fencing and quite a lot of it, given the length of the paths.

In between the cold and wet weather, including some not unsubstantial amounts of snow, we had warm and sunny days and this triggered an explosion of green. Birches went green within a week and the grass grows an inch a day... or so it seems. And that made me reconsider the bunny 'n' chicken-idea once more. They could never, ever keep up with that! Let alone control it!
Another issue is the limited space between the beds, which makes it highly impractical to wield a scythe
So I had to compromise; for now we bought a battery powered grass trimmer, just so we can keep up with the growth and keep the grass and other plants in check, until we have decided what to do. I might end up combining the latter 2 options. Don't know yet.

Oh... yeah.... the old horse manure I spread over some of the beds last year?
Turns out that that was packed with seeds...... Seeds of plants I did not want to see really..... So along with the favorable weather, those germinated and had ample amounts of nutrients.... *sigh*

One week long delay in weeding made that I felt that I had been overcome and overgrown by this green explosion and seeing the parts I did weed, turning green again is not exactly encouraging either. This is the toughest month in gardening around these parts. Things will slow down considerably in a month or so.

As far as the seeds are concerned; most are growing quite well!
A cold snap killed the tomato experiment however and none of the green beans germinated. (None of the Dutch brown ones either). Except for the ones around the metal feet of the old swing. I guess the warmth of the sun got conducted downward into the soil, warming that just enough to make the beans sprout! So I have to redo that and I now know to sow those a lot later. Maybe even as late as the first week of june.
The spinach I had sown around the garlic is not showing, but it did not show up last year either. Maybe the seed is too old? Or I need to sow it later too? I'll give it another go soon.

Yet another mistake I made was to not exactly and meticulously mark what I had sown where outside the greenhouse. I was in too much of a rush I guess, so now I know one bed contains carrots, beets and several species of onions in alternating rows, but I do not know what is where.
Cats using this bed as a toilet complicates things even further....

So...... There's a handful of lessons I am learning "the hard way". But that was and is exactly what I had expected.

Is it all misery and doom, then?
No of course not!
The cherrie- and plumbtrees made it and are blooming wonderfully and now they have gotten company of an appletree too. We could "save" that one for a good price. Folks needed to get rid of it, due to constructional work and since it was a recently planted tree there (2014) it could be dug up without trouble. Being only 2 meters (or a bit higher) meant that transport was no issue either.
Another plus is that we have more rhubarb than anticipated now. I needed to replant a big one and it simply fell apart. Now we have 3 plants instead of that 1 big one, bringing the total to 6.
We also got a rooting branch of a black gooseberry bush, so that should give us some more berrybushes as well soon.
A seedling exchange with one of our neighbours meant that now we do have tomato plants as well as leeks, some white cabbage and a few flowering plants too.
From my mother in law we got one of my all time favorit flowering plants; an older New dawn-rose. I love those! Their bright pale pink flowers, the smell..... and when it has become high enough I'll add a nice, dark clematis. That is always a sight to behold!

yet for now the rain keeps pouring down......