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!!


  1. You need to learn how to ski Ron;-)


    1. I hope I'll be able to do so this winter, Skaukraft!

  2. "I hate to think what the effect would be on bare fingers."
    Reading this gave me chills- beautiful views.

  3. Hehehe, I've been amazed before at how much clothing I have to take off in the forest to not sweat while doing axe work. :)

    Glad to hear your self-made mocs worked well. That's something I still haven't tried. Maybe I need to get some soft leather and try it.

    Looks like you're in need of some snowshoes or skis. Are there any military surplus stores in Sweden?

    I like to double-up gloves in the winter, too. If it's cold, but not super cold, I'll wear thin finger gloves and then thicker padded leather gloves over them. If it's super cold. I'll wear the finger gloves inside thick mittens like you have. Seems to work OK.

    And as always, beautiful nature photography!

    1. hej Matt, I guess there are some surplusstores, but I haven't found one near here, yet. Just some a few 100 klicks away.
      First I'll have to find out what skis I need and where to get them. Then how to use them...

    2. Make'em yourself;-)