Sunday, August 26, 2012

introduction to an old skill - charcoalburning

In the previous post I mentioned I do not get out much..... Well, that is not entirely true.
Last friday I did get out into the woods, but in a very different way than usual. In the village I live there are quit a number of traditions and one of them is to have a charcoal kiln every year at the beginning of autumn. To me this is completely new and I was invited to witness the lighting of this kiln and to be introduced to the team that does this work. The idea behind that is that I, in time, will learn this old skill, too and to take over from the older guys in due time.
On the scene I met the lot of them and they explained to me who was who and how things were done. They told me how to build up a kiln, what to do and think of etc. etc. This year they tried a new type of kiln; a so-called flat lying kiln, as opposed to the round one they usually do.

As said this was a try-out and things didn't quit work out as intended at first, because, while building this kiln they made a few minor errors, but eventually they got this one going too.

Yes, she is smoking... finally!
If I understood correctly, this kiln will burn for up to 2 weeks untill all the wood within is charred. This means that there have to be 2 people on site 24-7 for this period in order to maintain the kiln. They do this by sleeping in a hut on site and what a great little hut that is! It is a hut for 2, containing 2 bunks with a table between them and a fireplace.... that's it.
The hut is made up out of logs, finished with planks on the inside and piled on mossturfs on the outside. These turfs still contain living material and in time they grow together, forming a hollow kind of hill. We could literally eat raspberries and fungi from the roof and walls!
the entrance

one side with stovepipe

the other side with a window
the interior

the fireplace. I took this picture without flash to give an idea of how little light does get in.

detail of an outsidewall
I was told I was free to use this hut whenever I felt like it, if it was free. So you can guess where I'll be staying this winter. I am also free to use another hut, nearby...... Whoopee!
We were out there for a few hours untill the kiln was going strong, the light faded and the mosquitos became almost untolerable...... but in this time I did wonder around a little by myself, scouting the terrain, seeing plenty of mushrooms and one of the biggest anthills I have encountered here so far!
The next day I went back with my family, because that night was the official milkväll; the night of the kiln. Many from around gathered here to celebrate another succesfull lighting and this is done with live music localstyle, food and drinks, a lottery (national addiction) and most of all socialising.
One of the specialties is the socalled kolbulle, basically a thick pancake, baked in pigs'grease, with plenty of salt and bacon, topped with a good spoonfull of lingonberriejam. It is quit good actually..... once you get used to it.
baking in style

mine looked a lot tastier, but both tasted good..... and filled you up!
And as a nice encore.... Woodsmoke, caught in the rays of the setting sun, casting them between the trees.... To me that is what it's all about!

 OK..... one more afterburner.... The insideglow of one of the Finnish torches (or Swedish, the debate is still running).


  1. Fantastic! I love seeing stuff like this, i.e. nearly forgotten skills and techniques for old-time country living. Thank you for bringing us along, Ron!

    That hut is pretty sweet, too! Lucky you for being able to use it. :)

    The Finns like to eat thin pancakes like that as well and call them "lettu". Good stuff!

  2. That's awesome. I always like learning things like this as well. That's very nice of them to share it. Looked like a fun time too and great food. What's not to like?

  3. As far as I can say, they are built in a very different way over there. Interesting! Around these parts, they were often built in a round or pyramidal fashion, with the funnel in the centre. Or did I get it wrong? The hut, however, is very similar.

    Around these parts, the woods still bear the mark of the so-called "Haubergswirtschaft", a kind of crop- change agriculture. Maybe I will do an article upon that topic, you hit a nerve with me, thanks, bro!