Sunday, December 30, 2012

Midwinter timeout

It is the period between being very active in summer and autumn and previous to the period of refreshing frosts untill the outburst of new life in spring; midwinter.
As you might have noticed I don't go out much these days. There was a lot to do at work and there was a lot to do at home, too. The weather wasn't playing along and I still lack some essential gear, such as decent footwear. Plenty of excuses to stay indoors.
For me this is a time where I turn inward more. I am not as active as before, feel tired and a little edgy, loose interest in hobbies, but I read a lot and like to watch my favorite BBC life- and earth-series again. I also want to be left alone, do not actively seek out humancompanionship or even try to avoid gatherings, meaning the celebrations at the end of december are often more of a burden than a joy.
The reason for all this is that around this time of year,  I, for some reason start processing and dealing with all the stresses of the last few months. Don't know why, it just happens. I usually am quick to adapt to new situations, but the impact these situations have on me are more longlasting. It is as if I put all the emotions in a que, waiting for the proper time for them to sink in and give the new circumstances a place within. It is as if I am mentally dealing with the previous seasons, emptying my emotional and mental self, getting them ready for the next cycle of seasons. I "die" a little, in order to be "reborn", if you will.
The past few months have been exceptionally demanding; saying farewell my best friend again and permanently,  finding a place of our own, buying a house, moving and "loosing" my job, yet still adapting to this country, people and way of life, with my kids far outpacing me, both in their adaptation and fysical and mental growth and development, leaving me behind, wondering what the hell just happened.
The weather isn't playing along either. Skies are mostly overcast and we see the sun very little, although temperatures have been low. apart from the snow, there's little light and it being dark at 15:00 doesn't help much, either. Right now a spell of thaw has hit us and temperatures are now at around 6 degrees and even don't drop below 0 at night. And with a light drizzle everything is dripping wet and grey....

I also have noticed that the kids show these kind of "symptoms", too. More than usually at least. They're tired, are less active and hang around more, squabble more than usually or retreat to their rooms. And that makes me wonder; does living in the country as we do now, make us more aware or even in tune with natural cycles? Did living in the city, with all it's artificial lights, noices and images, overpower our sences to a degree we stopped noticing the cycle of the seasons and made us ignore the effect it had on us?
And I wonder; does Mother Nature provide us with a remedy for that in the forms of some herbal tea or is it just natural to go into an almost hibernational state? All I know is that I can only hope for a real winter for the next few months, with snow and open, frosty weather. At least the days are getting longer everyday, so in a month or so there'll be noticebly more daylight.

Is it all doom and gloom, then? Absolutely not!
Apart from my dayly doings with shoveling snow, cutting wood and firing up the stove, there was offcourse christmas and for us it was the first true white christmas ever! Apart from the cover of fluffy white stuff we allready had, we got more on christmaseve and on christmasday. I don't know why it was so important to us, probably because we never had it, but we were delighted!
Celebrating this feast with just the five of us, sharing a few gifts, good food and each others company, peacefully and (relatively) quite, making it one of the years familyhighlights after all.

A few days previously we had the last full moon of the year and a chrystalclear sky. I went out and enjoyed the mysterious and yet a bit eery atmosphere. It was freezing, the air was still, there was not a sound and the moon cast a silver light over the land. It was so clear that the moon cast deep shadows on the snow. It was as if the earth had frozen in time... magical...


We have plenty of time to watch the animals around our house. The birds keep gathering here in large numbers and we were again able to identify 4 new species, being trädkrypare (Certhia familiaris),female gråspet (Picus canus), stjärtmes (Aegithalos caudatus) (claimed to be spotted by my oldest daughter and identified by her) and gråsiska (Carduelis flammea).

 
Also the deer regularly visit our feeder and garden and last night we could observe them for minutes on end, seeing first 2 and than the third one coming up. They left, turned and came back again. I managed to open the front door, while all 3 of them were there, and step outside without startling them! They looked at me and I looked at them, while we were a mere 10 meters apart! I was watching wild deer close by, without sending them running! I even took pictures, using the flash and still they would not run. Unfortunately my camera is no where near suitable for this kind of thing, so no pics to show you. Even talking to them in a low voice did not scare them. They just kept looking at me, their eyes focussed and their ears raised. It was untill I made a sharper noice, which sent them leaping away, but I was feeling very thrilled and privileged! The whole happening lasted a few minutes, too.

I have also begun to take my first "steps" into a new skill; skiing! Scored a set of sticks for a mere 10sek in the local secondhandstore, completing the skis that came with the house. It went relatively well, I must say. Only landed flat in the snow once, because one of the fittings came loose. And I have the perfect trainingground right around the house; flat areas, a hilly wooded area, no traffic and very few witnesses to collapse laughing.... Falling into the snow, wearing jeans, a fleece jacket and fleece fingergloves proved to be an unlucky combination. after getting up the snow froze solid on the jacket and gloves and the pants got wet. End of skiingclass!

 
 My wife too has been working on some new skills; preparing food with cast iron pans and skillets and yesterday she added another, making bread entirely by hand and than baking it in a clay pot, a socalled Römer Topf (Roman pot). The large loaf of bread was delicious and as we speak, there is a large moosestew simmering in our dutch oven. Can't wait!


Speaking of dayly doings; one almost went disasterly wrong! Almost seriously damaged my right indexfinger, while splitting wood. There was one piece of wood, that was cut off at an angle and so would not stand up by itself on the cutting block. With one hand I held it up and with the other I planned on tapping the splittingaxe into the wood, so that I could raise both simultaniously and than split the wood by knocking it on the block. Somehow I missed the piece of wood and nicked my indexfinger! Luckily the businessend of the blade wasn't facing straight down and it glanced off from my leather workingglove, leaving me with a torn skin, a large blue mark and a swelling around the first knuckle of said finger..... What was I thinking!!!

Which leaves me with just one more thing to do; wishing you all a very good transition into the next year. Stay safe, stay healthy and we'll be seeing each other "next year"!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Superstitions & Fairytales

Well, I guess the interpretors of the Mayancalendre got it wrong. The fact that you can read this, is proof; the world didn't end. This leaves many doomsdaypreppers with whole stockpiles of food, water, guns and ammo, probably waiting for the next "day of days". And it made me wonder; why did so many believe in it? I have to admit that I did too have a bit of an uneasy feeling, when the day drew near. Is it, because the media got us all hyped up. Is it, because we like to believe in our own demise or is it, because we know there are forces out there, well beyond the reach of our knowledge and understanding. A deep, instinctive knowing.... All I know, is that society as we know it now will change and probably will collapse. History has shown that it happens with every large culture/society, when it outgrows itself and all the signs are there today, again. But that's a whole other discussion.
 
Superstitions & Fairytales; it sounded like a great title for something that used to be, and in a way still is, a part of everyday life, It seems it has all but vanished, except for the books of our children, yet still influences many aspects of our lives with the doomsdayscenarios being one of the many. For many centuries, actually for the entire time mankind existed, gods, demons, spirits or similar beings dominated everyday life, beliefs and worship. Did these beliefs come from that same deep, instinctive knowledge or were they taught, even indoctrinated? We all know many of those creatures and we all know that many are deeply fascinated by them. I am not talking about zombies, vampires or werewolves. I am talking about entities of nature; woodspirits, gnomes, elves, trolls and all those other fantasyfigures from the woods..... But are they fantasy?
Somehow I have my doubts. These figures probably do not exist as we know them today with wings or red hats, but more often than not I find myself sensing something out there. It feels as if something is looking at me, studying me, making its stare feeling almost touchable. Something just beyond my grasp, beyond or sometimes even just at the edge of my field of vision, but it is there! And as soon as I look it is gone. I doubt if it would be an animal, because that would still create a movement, when it escapes, unless a mouse or some other animal could give me that "solid" stare.
Probably the people from long ago did so too, but their vivid imagination might have caused them to dream up those figures, the gnomes, fairies and trolls, simply to make them comprehensible. I know they were used to teach man, woman and child lessons and what better way than to use examples and images. We all know the stories about them.... On the other hand maybe they didn't and just maybe some of them actually encountered one of those figures. You're probably laughing now, thinking I completely lost it, but think about it. The tales about these figures are so old, so widespread and so similar to one another! For instance gnomes in the north of Scandinavia aren't so different is appearance and charactre from the one's in eastern Europe. It isn't so long ago that we have been made able to hop in our cars and planes and travel for hunderds of kilometers within a day, but back in those days travel, and especially long distance, wasn't so easy, so how could those tales be so similar over such long distances? I just can not dismiss all those tales and similarities as mere fantasy of an illiterate medieval peasant or troubadour.
Maybe these folkloretales are just that and are the gnomes and others just creations of simple, human brains, or maybe they are embodyments of the forces people did experience. The primal forces of nature.... Something for people to relate to and identify with when experiencing them and talking about them, but I am convinced there's more to it than we know or even want to know. All the ancient civilisations living in close contact to nature speak of spirits or similar entities in a way that clearly shows that, to them, these are fact and not fantasy.
I do realise that those cultures are considered primitive by todays points of view, but aren't we ourselves still a bit too? Why do we seek out places outside the cities? Why do we need to have trees around us or reconnect to nature or the earth? Is it just to workout, to play with toys and tools, maybe even relive our childhood or is there more to it; a deeper longing, a need to get in touch? Aren't we looking for something we, over the centuries, have lost?



Copyright©Maria Friberg Berntsson 2008


Huldra (or Skogsrå as she’s called here in southern Sweden) appears in old Scandinavian folklore as a seductive forest creature, the Lady and ruler of the forest.
The huldra is stunningly beatiful, but if you saw her from behind you could see she is hollow with a hole in her back, just like an old tree.
She also has an animal’s tail, in Norway it’s a cow’s tail, but in Sweden it is usually a fox’s tail.
Huldra is very interested in humans, especially men, and rewards those that are kind to her, but she can make your life miserable if you make her angry.
In some traditions, she lures men into the forest to make romance, again rewarding those that gives her satisfaction and often killing those who don’t or refuse her.
Sometimes she marries a local farm boy.When they are married in church, the tail falls off. If the man doesn’t treat her right, she will be incredibly ugly and the husband will suffer greatly throughout the marriage.



And even today many of us outdoorsmen and -women talk about woodspirits and I do not mean just the carved ones. On each and every forum there are examples of people experiencing them, feeling or maybe even seeing them. There's talk about them, not just in a joking way, but sometimes a serious undertone is noticable, too. And let's be honest; how many haven't seen something in the woods that indeed did have a striking similarity to a face, allthough it was completely made by nature.
is it really just our brain playing tricks on us? I don't think so.
Maybe I am being silly or childish, but if that is the case than I cincearly hope to remain that way. Growing up is so boring and monotonous and what is better than trying to hold on to a little bit of that childish view of the world. Feel the curiousness and magic and experiencing that with an more open mind than the narrowminded points of view of an adult.... I like believing I am not alone out there. That there is something more besides the plants and animals... I just know there is a world out there full of wonder!

Speaking of which..... There is a gnomelike figure very popular these days. Here is Sweden he is known as the jultomte or christmasgnome. Many others know him as Santa Claus. In Swedish tradition or folklore he doesn't anywhere near look like the roundbellied, applecheeked, cocacolacoloured santa claus we all know. Here it's a small fellow, living near people's houses or farms, keeping an eye on them and the animals and by all accounts is far more a gnome than a jolly old, round man, dressed in red and white. He hasn't got a sled with reindeer either, but a small sled, pulled by a goat.
source: jultradition.se

Which leaves with but one thing to do; to wish you all a........





Posts like these are made up of thoughts which pop up from time to time. I write them down in this blog and in due time I rewrite them to make an enjoyable tale out of them. One of the reasons is that I simply do enjoy writing, painting with words, if you will..... The paintings aren't always the most beautyfull or artistically acceptable ones, yet I think anything goes. You might think of me as a nut now, but, if not for it's entertaining value, why did you read it all to this end?
I'm sure I did make you smile and wonder, right?


Friday, December 14, 2012

Dayly doings of a trying woodsman

Well, not so much of a woodsman lately, but stil....
As I previously mentioned I split my own wood lately and that means doing that in freezing temperatures too. Some lessons I learned in doing that is to dress lightly for the occassion. Last week I was busy concentrating on the swing of the axe (I just love how that sounds.... swing of the axe.... It's the title of a song from one of my favorite bands some 25 years ago) at -16, wearing nothing but basic clothing; pants, t-shirt, wool sweater and a heavyduty cotton jacket and some woolen fingergloves inside the workinggloves. Cap on my head and thick socks in winterboots. After a short while I started getting warm already. I wasn't going nuts, but chopping at a comfortable, steady pace. It was befor long I started to sweat. As long as I kept moving, no problem, but as soon as I stood still..... not comfortable! So memo to me; start even colder and keep an overlayer handy. And don't forget to cover the ears! Ouch....

Wood behaves differently too, it seemed. Almost as if it split with more explosive force. Not with an even "crack", but with a "bang", sending pieces of wood all over the place.
The sun went down and it got colder, fast. Time to call it a day anyway, as I do not like to work this way in the dark. So I packed up my gear, tidied up the workarea and as I wanted to wipe of the small pieces of wood and other stuff off the business end of the axe, this happend....

Another memo to me; do not mess with metal in these temperatures! I hate to think what the effect would be on bare fingers.

And since I am sitting at home right now, trying to recover from a cold I've been fighting for a while, yet evidently lost that fight, I have time to read a lot (I am working my way through Jean M. Auels "Earth children"-series. great books, but I'll tell you about them, when I'm done with all 6 of them) and I have time to look around and see what's happening around the house. Today I was astonished to see large groups of small birds, that had gathered in our garden. Dozens of them of at least 7 different species. A part from the usual suspects, we were now being visited by large groups of gulsparv(Emberiza citrinella), Grönsiska (Carduelis spinus) and even some grönfink (Chloris chloris). It was quit a sight!!





I wanted to go out and check out our deerfeeder and look if the deer had shown up, I somehow got the idea of taking my selfmade moccassins and to try them. It should be cold, and thus dry, enough at -15. I put on a pair of thick socks over a pair of thin ones, hoisted myself in my large green coat and other winterstuff and took a walk around the house. Deertracks were plentyfull, as were the places where they had been feeding, besides the feeder.  Feet felt comfy, so I walked to our mailbox a few hundred meters away. I was surprised by the feel and grip my footwear gave me on a compacted snowsurface! By the time I got home, toes were feeling a chilly and upon inspection were a bit moist allready after a good half an hour. Those huntingsocks I bought are rubbish and not to be used outside by me. Should have known with 35% polyamid and 25% elasthan. So these came off and I tried a thin pair of wool socks, topped by a pair of thicker (but not really thick) woolsocks (both pairs a claimed 95% wool). And as long as I was going for a walk again, I might as well try some other things. So I stuffed my new, old pack with some random gear, grabbed some dirtcheap leather mittens I got from a secondhandshop last winter and headed out again. I wanted to see where the deer were coming from and I just had to get out. Out of the house and into the fresh air.
Tracking the deer was easy in this snow and I followed their tracks down to the lake. Again my moccassins surprised me with the feel and contact with the ground they gave me. I could feel the branches, rocks and grass under the snow and I occassionally heard ice breaking, probably from frozen puddles in the field. Just hoped there'd be no more water in them! Again I felt my toes cool down, but that stopped soon and it felt as if it stayed on a more or less constant temperature. Not toasty warm, but not numbing either. So I plodded on, enjoying this wonderfull winterday en dito scenery.
 
How I missed this!!


 

The backpack felt as comfortable as it's Swedish equivalent, yet is bigger. So far a keeper for sure.
But within the hour things started to change. Plodding through kneedeep snow, with a 11kg load (I checked when I got home), a 3kg coat and a less than fit fysical shape, drained my energy fast. Also my feet were getting cold again and not just those. My calves were starting to freeze too! Snow had started to accumulate on them, just below the knee and clung to my pants. It felt like walking around with icepacks strapped to them, even more so as my bodytemperature started to melt that snow and my pants started to get wet.  As long as I moved it was relatively ok, but as soon as I stood still it was not pleasant. I turned around and went home.
Upon arrival home I checked my feet; socks were dry as was the inside of the moccassins. The outside was damp, but not wet. The top of the shaft had accumulated some snow, but my pants (jeans) were wet and the skin on the calves below the knee was icecold. Next time I'll take my woolpants again! Never had that happen to them befor.
A short walk, but I had some exercise and fresh air and learned a few things, too. Stay out of deep snow if possible, unless you have the means to "stay on top of it", meaning skis, snowshoes or something similar. Makes things a lot less tough. Jeans are no good for this kind of thing. Dry snow sticks like glue, even when cold and dry. My next pair of moccassins needs to be just a little larger, especially around the toes. With the mentioned 2 pair of socks I still had some room left, but don't know if that is enough. I already noticed that my feet are becoming more of a problem in winter since this year, meaning they tend to get (and stay) colder faster. So for me that is someting to keep an eye on and work on this winter.
The pack feels comfortable, but I haven't tried it for real yet. The same goes for the mittens. These have a shaft that is to narrow to go over the cuffs of this coat and to wide to fit comfortably in them. But with a pair of thin fingergloves in them, they did very well in keeping the hands warm. Maybe I should add a little brush to my kit, so I can brush off snow from clothing and gear.....


Can't wait untill I can go out again for real!!

Deer friends

I have to admit I was surprised last sunday, when I heared my son shout that we had 2 deer in our yard! I would have never expected to see them right here, between the homes and barns of the place we live now, but they did come out! I guess the large amount of snow is driving them out of the woods and into the human world in order to search for food. We could just see them from on of our kitchenwindows as they headed into the wooded area of our garden. We watched them slowly move on and I was as happy as a child on christmasmorning to see them here. Their appearance means something special to me and actually to all of us. Don't exactly know why, it just does.
After the deer had moved on I went out to look for their tracks and I found them almost immediately, yet instead of 2 there were 3 tracks. one of them had appearantly rounded the large bolders in the yard and kept out of sight. I followed their tracks around a little and found a place, right behind said bolders, where they had scraped away the snow and had been feeding. All of this within 15 meters from the house! They must be desperate. Than I remembered the small trail I found in the grass, when we moved in here. Could it be that they came here frequently? New tracks in the snow should give me the answer....
And they sure did. Right the next day I found very fresh tracks, when I came home from work. These tracks were even closer; within 3 meters from our frontdoor! And they had again been feeding, this time between some wild rosebushes, right next to the path next to the house.
I decided we were going to help them and give them some additional food, something the appearantly needed and were desperate for. I grabbed a large flowerpot with matching waterplate, filled the latter with deerfood we in the meantime had gotten from my mother in law and placed the plate on top of the pot, so it was well above the snowlevel. I was just hoping they would indeed show up again and yes.... a little later that morning we spotted some movement just on the other side of our gardenborder. There they were, first 2 of them, almost up to their bellies in the snow; 2 adults, a little later followed by a younger one. A yearling, maybe?
 
However they were to weary, to apprehensive to go anywhere near the pot. Except for the young one, it kept paceing back and fro, constantly sniffing and checking. Eventually they all got scared away by our neighbour, slamming hid cardoor and starting the engine..... damn.



Later we talked to my parents in law on the phone and the issue came up. They told us they too had deer in the wooded area behind their house. We knew there was a group of 3 out there, but somehow that group had grown to 6! And they were all happily feeding from a couple of feeders my father in law had made. If we would like to have one as well?
Sure we did and we hung up that one yesterdaymorning. I guess we spooked "our" deer, because we did not see them, yet when I went out today I saw numerous tracks around it and some food had been scattered around. It looked like not only the birds had found it!

And all around the house are their tracks. They're so close that if I wanted (or knew how to shoot),  I could hunt them with a bow and arrow right from my livingroomsofa or from behind the kitchencounter! Appearantly they are quit comfortable around this place, so I'll try to keep it that way. It does mean i have to alter my plans for my vegetablegarden a bit, though.
Helping deer through the winter has another benefit, besides us being able to see and study them. It keeps them alive, so that large carnivores, like the wolves that have been spotted in the area lately, have something to actually hunt for. This way they might leave lifestock alone a bit more, giving the very strong, and often very egotistical and shortsighted, huntinglobby less reason to shoot them.


Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why the choice of traditional gear?

You might have noticed that I plead for the use of traditional and/or natural gear and materials.
On the BCUK-forum I frequently visit there is the discussion going on about traditional vs. modern (you can read it here ). One of the guys made a comment that made it all clear, at least from my point of view. It is this one:"For me, the important distinction is between equipment that's made using materials largely derived from petrochemicals, in far-eastern sweatshops, and transported halfway round the world, eg. most contemporary gear, and that which is made using materials of renewable origin (cotton, leather etc.) by more local makers. Its about impact on the planet and ethics. ", made by charliefoxtrot.
All I had to add, was the element of emotion. The feeling natural/traditional materials and gear give me, when I touch it. It feels not as cold and unliving as synthetics. It also links me to the natural world around us, because it was living tissue, befor turned into gear, clothing and equipment and that too you can still feel and see. It provides a direct link to the past and it's knowledge we try to relearn and re-experience. And last, but not least, the use of materials and gear from that category fits precisely into my filosophy and helps me to stay focussed, going the path I have chosen to go.

I am allways amazed when these discussions pop up (and I allways get drawn in...), that there are hordes of people claiming that todays gear will be traditional in a hundred years and that the "icons from the old days" were not traditionalists either, but modern for their times and would probably use modern fibres and gear too. Apart from the fact that if we were to set a standard for traditional/natural we should look at the native americans for instance and not some 19th century urban man, who happens to like camping too. This way they completely neglect or avoid the, for me, true content of the discussion; using materials with a huge ecological footprint (as it is so popularly know these days) vs. materials that are less demanding on resources or leave less longterm waste, between taking your responsibility as a consuming human vs. being a hypocrite, between truely caring for our world or being a pretender.
For me someone running around in all new synthetics, with all the latest gadgets and still claiming he cares about our world and our enviroment, is the same as a sportsmen, taking his car for a 2-minutedrive to buy a pack of cigarettes; a pretender! It is all about action, not words.

Using traditional and natural materials and gear actually is synonimous for my way of living. My family and I are going the way back. We do not buy all the latest and greatest, we heat our house with wood (allthough that means hauling everybit of it uphill, while we have an electrical heater standing right beside our woodfedheater), we use natural materials or surplusstuff as much as possible or desirable (There still is the socially acceptable standard or SAS).
Yes, we do have a car, simply because we do need it here, with the school, nearest store and facilities are 12km away and at this moment we can not do without. Yes, we do have a tv, computer, xbox and internet, because some of it we simply need to be able to function in this society and because we have children and that's where the SAS comes in, again. Some things are also leftovers from the years previous to our current path. Since these are still functional, they still will be sporadically used untill they quit all together.

Am I telling you all this to show you how good I am and to tell you I have all the answers?? Hell no! I am telling you, so you can see it can be done. To tell you that you can do it too and to hopefully hear from others that I can do it differently, easier or better, so I don't have to fall on my face each time and learn it the hard and painfull way.
And by repeatingly telling and writing about this subject here, I am hoping to reach someone out there, who might be triggered to think about it for himself and make up his own mind and act accordingly. We're a family of five, yet we produce less waste than a average modern 2-personhousehold and we use less resources than an average modern 2-personhousehold and we have only just begun to change our ways. Imagine what would happen if more and more were to follow....

Now I fully understand that we can not change what we are and do over night and that we can not shift the balance in an instant. It takes time, time to relearn and unlearn, to rediscover and revalue.
Yet I firmly believe that doing things in a less wastefull manor will help our world to become a much better place. I also realise that this is wasted on the vast majority. They prefer to remain ignorant, often delibaretly turning a blind eye, but maybe.... just maybe....

In the end I believe it is not just about discussing your choice of gear and material, wether you're traditional or modern, walk around in a buckskin jacket of a polyester one. It is about who you really are, what you truely believe in and what you are willing to do in order to support that.
If someone fully dressed in the latest hightech, fashionable acceptable gear with all the bells and whistles came up op me, looked me in the eye and honoustly told me that he wholeheartedly believed that this was the best way for our world, I shall absolutely respect that. But I doubt if there would be many....

This is my truth, not THE truth....

Friday, December 7, 2012

US Forest Service, An Axe to Grind - Complete Documentary




King Winter's onslaught

That's the way I see it at least! I have to admit that I was taken by surprise and am in awe about the force with which winter took over.
The last 2 weeks have been a period of transition, of a total transformation of the world around us and our way of living. King Winter has arrived and his entrance was a grand one! It has been snowing a lot and temperatures dropped to well below freezing, both night and day, with -26 being the coldest so far. We have somewhere between 40 and 45cm of snow (I guess), which is the most I have seen as far as I can remember. For me this is winter on a new level and we're not being tourists anymore, we're living in it 24/7. This changed our everyday life significantly. Driving a car in these conditions is a new experience and has become a challenge and the time to go out and frolic in the snow is limited (as in allmost nonexistant, so far), but that doesn't mean I don't get fresh air. I get to go out and exercise for an hour at least once a day, just to shovel snow or to cut and split wood. And, once I am done, have gone inside, fired up the central heatingsystem and enjoy the crackling of the fire in the livingroom's fireplace, I keep busy doing outdoorrelated stuff inside or read about it. So stay tuned for tinkeringprojects or bookreviews.... Apart from that, I have occassional walks in the area, just to be out there and experience winter.
Some impressions of a walk through the immediate area;


























We had an eveningwalk in the woods nearby, organised by the local branch of an outdoorsociety, here in Sweden. What an amazing experience that was!
A thick carpet of snow, freezing temperatures, silence and the whole group lit by life fire; torches! It really gave an immensely tranquil and peacefull atmosphere and I just could not help but thinking about the people in the early days, when they had to find their way around, using a torch or candlelit lanterns. That must have been a tricky thing to do, when you're alone out there.
The torches themselves were a roll of paper, drenched in candlewax and stuck onto a small wooden handle. They would burn with practically a trace of ash with the faint smell of candles. I guess they were about 50cm long and, when carefully handled, lasted more than an hour to an hour and a half. We walked our 2x3km stretch in the snow in a small child's pace and we had easily 25% left of our torches.
























One of the other things we, as a family, do is helping the birds, feeding them and enjoy watching them, as they whizz about right in front of our livingroomwindow. It is great to be able to study their behaviour so up close, their feedingways and preferences, their peckingorder and their squabbling. I even noticed some behaviour I did not expect; a woodpecker copying the small bird's behaviour!


I was also to identify these guests at our wintertable;
domherre (pyrrhula pyrrhula),
nötväcka (Sitta euroaea),
blåmes (parus caeruleus),
talltitta (Parus montanus),
talgoxe (Parus major).
Gulsparv (Emberiza citrinella)
Gröngöling (Picus viridis)
Större hackspet (Dendrocops major) 2 males
Tretåig hackspet (Picoides tridactylus)
Gråkråka (Corvus corone cornix)
Nötskrika (Garrulus glandarius)
Skata (pica pica)
Bofink (Fringilla coelebs)
Pilfink (Passer montanus)

We saw 2 different squirrels, one greyish and one a glowing dark copperred and I found numerous trails of hare and fox, right up to our house.

Another thing is that I have a bit of time to work on outdoorrelated gear and skills. Two of the skills I use at a dayly basis now, are lighting fires and sharpening tools. Since we have to warm our house the old fashioned way, I find myself, and the Mss. for that matter, splitting wood, cutting thin woodstrips and using birchbark to get the fires going. No firesteels are being harmed in the proces, but good, old matches are! I use the opportunities to experiment with different types of fire and learn about the burning qualities of wood. This means sharpening knives and axes, too. A great help with that, was watching the movie/video of "An axe to grind", which came across Johan's Nordic bushcraft-blog. I'm not much of a youtuber myself, so I'll post the link in a separate post. This way I, and others, can find it back again.

I also get time to work on some stalled projects, like my Dutch wool armypants and re-examining the clothing I use, because... well, I don't just sit inside. A major issue I found was having cold feet. The use of winterboots, purchased here, does not help, really. They are made from synthetic materials, which combined with non-wool socks, make my feet damp and thus cold, even with an extra insole and layerings socks. So I got myself some 95% woolsocks, both thin and thicker (and hopefully some all leather ankleboots, too). I'll let you know how they perform shortly.
I frequently use my Swedish army m59 vindrock (parka) and matching wintercap and I must say I am very pleased with their performance, even though the jacket weighs a tonne (3KG actually) and the cap, with flaps down, seriously reduces the ability to hear. Another shortcoming of the parka is that it has 2 huge lower frontpockets, in which you can stuff a lot of things, but finding them back is less easy. No other pockets are available.


And why do (outdoor)guys wear beards??
I tried and I can not answer that. When drinking the beverage tended to remain in the moustache, when eating liquids, like soup or sauce, that happened too. An advantage is that you always have a snack nearby. Just suck on the moustache.... When it is cold, it turns moisture, like the exhaled breath, into ice, again accumulating in the previously mentioned hairy area. When sleeping I sometimes tickled myself awake, as the facial hair was pressed against my face or even under and into my nose!!
No sir... not for me. I liberated myself from this "hairy matter" and walk around "butt" naked again.
I just don't see the advantages, after than being relieved from that close contact with sharp blades on the skin.

Friday, November 30, 2012

A very wise and insightfull piece.....

by an American outdoorsman.
I am not going to add anything to it, just the fact that I specifically copy the link to that piece, here should say enough...
Our wilderness by "American grouch"

Take your time to read it, let it soak in and think about it..... You really should.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No exciting outings or fancy gear.....

but every day life and some old stuff I got real cheap! So instead of great pictures and a good story of outdooractivities, I'll bore you all with my latest purchases and some aspects of living in the countryside.
To start with the first I got a great deal 8actually it was more of a steal!) at one of the local thriftstores. The first one is a Swedish armyaxe. It weighs a total of 2kg and is 55cm long. It has a leather cap over the edge, but it also has a hole in the blade and a ring at the back of the shaft! At first I though it was some homemade addition, but all the axes for sale had these features. The straps of the cap ran through the hole, crossing each other there and than ran though the ring, again crossing each other. Than they were tied in a knot, but even without the knot the cap remains in place.
The axe is in prety decent shape, but the leather cap has signs of mold and the leather is dry. I'll be giving this axe some TLC, sanding the handle to a bare wood, maybe giving the head a patina if it is steel and clean and treat the leather to some wax. This axe cost me 50sek!



My absolute high for that day was this backpack. It resembles the Swedish army backpack, but is larger, has 2 long sidepockets and a large frontpocket and some stringing on the sides to allow the main compartment to even expand more.
It is made out of a heavy canvas with leather fastenings and a rubberized inner. Asking around on the Finnish bushcraftforum learned that it might actually be an old version of the Savotta 339 saddle sack, but this pack lacks any kind of markings, brandnames or tags and by the looks of it never wore them either.
Speaking of looks, this pack looks well used with many signs of wear and tear. One of the closing straps has been replaced and upon examining it I found lots of dust, soil, grass and plantparts in its folds. I could not help but wondering what this pack has been though. If only it could talk and tell me about its whereabouts and adventures...... And all this for a whooping 10sek!!!
I must say that it handled well.




 
The second part of this post is about living in the countryside. For me as a cityboy there is much to learn. One of the basics is actually one of the most basic things done by man; cutting wood! For many this may seem  a bit odd and some may raise an eyebrow, but cutting wood does not come naturally!! I had to learn it!
And me being me meant that most of the work would be done by hand. Right in front of our house there were 4 hideously disfigured sprucetrees. The previous owner had simply cut out the top of these large trees some years ago, cuasing the trees to form multiple tops and grow even wider. Apart from the fact that they were a sorry bunch to see and that their removal would enhance the visual aspect both from and to the house, there were several other benefits from cutting them down.
One is that the bedrooms of my 2 oldest children are exposed to the light of the sun and that means that on sunny days their rooms are a bit warmer. They have rooms in the basement, so a few extra degrees of warmth is welcome, so that these rooms are more comfortable during the day. That also cuts down on heating. Not much, but still. Another is that the wood from the trees will actually be used for exactly that purpose later one; heating. The large parts will end up in the woodfed central heatingsystem and the smaller parts, like branches, will warm our fireplace in the livingroom.
There were also ssome dead treepieces to be removed from the rest of our backyard, as well as a leaning tree, next to the house. It leaned some much over that it actually touched our house and in high winds hit the wooden wall, the roofedge and bathroomwindow. I feared that with a thick layer of snow it might actually break off and cause a lot of damage. So down that went, too. Now that side gets a bit more sunlight and moving air too, which cuts down on the moisture in that part of the garden.
I took the trees down, using an electrical chainsaw; powerfull enough, less noicy and certainly better smelling! Unfortunately I had no axes or saws to do it manually.
 
What i did do manually was cutting the branches to size. I also started to split some of the wood we had from our previous place. Unfortunately it is too big and too long. Some pieces are larger than 20cm in diameter and measure 50-55cm in length. That is too much for our current heater, so I wanted to cut the pieces down to size making them easier to load and burn. I started to split them using a splitting axe with 2kg head and extra wide fittings on the side. After a while I got the hang (or is it swing?) of it and work progressed nicely. There's nothing like some simple physical work in the fresh air! Relaxes the mind and works out the body. After an hour or so I thought:" hey this is easy. I can do this. No problem!" And immediately an alarmbel went off. from experience I know that getting cocky or careless leads to disaster, so down went the axe and I took a break.
A good moment to line up and show my tools of the trade.
 
As I stood there, looking at the wood, the axes and cuttingblock, I could not help but think that everyone should at least do this everyonce in a while. It would make people much more appreciative of the modern conveniences we have today and make them waste less resources. It is all too easy these days; just a turn on a switch and the house gets warm. In many cases too warm. There's no need for subtropical temperatures, when it's winter outside. If you get chilly, put on a sweater over your t-shirt. It also reconnects me with the old days. I can still remember when I was a young boy, living with my grandparents, watching them cut wood, in order to get the stove going, befor the coal went in. In those days the kitchen was cosy warm, as was the livingroom, the cellar and hall were cool, but the bedrooms were freezing. I can still recall the feeling of comfort, whenever I entered the kitchen or livingroom, appreciating the warmth. The cold bedrooms made sleeping under woolen blankets heavenly, getting up in the morningcold less so. But it goes much further than that. Doing this kind of work makes me understand the way people lived and worked. I understand why houses were built the way they were and, thinking back to my youth, I again realise why the kitchen was the heart of the home. And finally it gives me a satisfying feeling of achievement, of a hard day's work, that makes sense.
 
Even the smallest of branches and twigs were put to use. The large amounts of rain and moisture had turned our parkingarea and the path to our door into something resembling a WW1-trench in late autumn. So I layed down a carpet of spruceboughs to walk over. This way we don't have to wallow throught the mud. The boughs actually act as a brush, cleaning of the worst dirt from the soles and lower parts of the shoes! The other branches and twigs were shredded and act as underground on our parkingarea. And next spring we'll dig out this entire area in order to fill it with gravel, so all this organic material will end up in the soil of our garden. Nothing gone to waste....