Friday, December 7, 2012

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.


  1. Well, it seems you're getting deeper and deeper into Swedish country life all the time now! Great to see.

    I don't get jealous often, but I have to say that I am envious of your hour-a-day of outside work/exercise. I could really use that!

    Great winter photography, by the way!

  2. Looks like you got a better start on the winter than we have had. But it is starting to look better now, but still very little snow. Only 3-4 cm were I live.
    Need some real snowfall before the ground frost goes to deep and f***S up the waterpipes.