Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Dayly doings.... and my mancave.

What have I been up to lately? Well, not much actually, apart from losing my job, looking for another one and doing the dayly chores in and around the house....
We're still busy sorting things out after the move, moving furniture and boxes around, trying to find places and ways to store our stuff and especially our books! We have so many. Hard to believe we already got rid of dozens of them befor.... That really is a weak spot my wife and I have. Wherever we go, whatever secondhandstore or thriftshop we visit we can not pass by the bookcorner. And we always find something, too. It isn't so much the novels we love, allthough we have our fair share of those, but it actually are the books we use to learn new things or to look up that delicious recipe, that great gardentip or that wonderfull piece of information on a nature related subject. You get the idea.
We decided to use some of our limited funds to buy a few storageshelves, so my wife could get her hobbythings sorted. Now she has a place for all her wool, felt, leather, sewingkits and other things, which made room for some of my stuff, giving me the opportunity to unpack my scalemodellingboxes. I hadn't seen the contents in more than 2 years and I figured I might pickup this hobby again. Unfortunately I haven't.
This however made room in one of our cellars and I took this opportunity to organise and clean up the stuff I do use; our outdoorstuff! And I was, and still am, appalled and even a bit ashamed by the amount of stuff I/we have gathered! I still have stuff from when I begun my outdoorsy life and while going through a personal proces of growth and change, so the gear did change, showing that proces. The "old" stuff remained, however. Some of it stayed, because it was handed down to the kids or my wife, but much stayed, simply because I had not had the opportunity to sell it or give it away. Throwing away good stuff is a definite NO-NO. Moving here meant acquiring real winterstuff and that is quit bulky.
So if everything settles down a bit I'll have quit some selling to do.

I'll show you around in my mancave a bit. Here's the view, when entering it. It is the cellar next to the heaterroom, so it tends to have that nice woodsmokesmell. I have to share it with the deepfreezer. There are still some boxes left with other stuff, that still needs to find a place elsewhere in the house. The large green chest in the bottom was a Swedish army foodbox, complete with 10cm of foam insulation. That was ripped out and I am in the proces of fixing it, so it can hold my wooly winterstuff, mothfree (I hope).
The great thing is that I have a little workbench now, so I can do some indoortinkering.

The 2 bananaboxes are filled with "stuff-to-go", excess stuff like webbing, canteens with or without cup, camouflagepants etc. The other cardboard boxes are non-outdoorstuff. What these pictures do not show is a dufflebag full of Dutch army stuff, which has no use for me anymore, a dufflebag with a Dutch camouflagenet, which in Holland we used to creat of shady place for my wife (less trees and medical reasons) and a dufflebag with 4 German army sleepingbags, with which I got ripped off, since all the zippers turned out to be  broken (deliberately cut up and the zipperupperthingy removed) and a dufflebag with foammats to sleep on.

Backpacks, rucksacks, daypacks, clothing, poncho's, sleepingbags, fieldcots and tents. The redsided paperbag holds onionpeels I am collecting to do some natural fabricdyeing this summer.

My wardrobe with old fashioned shoepolishbox. Yes, I still do polish my leather footwear! The swiss backpack is a decorational item now, since the leather straps have deteriorated to much.

As I said, I did do some tinkering. I made a potstand out of a steel canteencup. The tilt comes from the mossy soil melting and it eventually made the mug and potstand tip over. I actually waited for that to happen, just to see what would happen.. There'll be more about this one in a later, separate post.

As for me personally... well....
Since the last post I did cut out the sugar as much as possible. I was more or less making changes befor, but since the last 8 or so days, I am really making an effort. No more in the coffee, the tea gets sweetened with honey, no more sweets, cookies or chocolate, no more sweets on the sandwiches like jelly, jam or again chocolate, no more cola, soda or drinking syrup (that disgustingly sweet stuff you mix with water) and I have to admit I feel good about it! I also found out that I had to go through something like withdrawel the first few days! A constant craving to not eat, but snack, a bit of a pounding head, thirsty, I sweated more than usual and it had a distinct stonger odour. There were noticeable differences when going to the bathroom (I'll spare you the details) etc. So, apart from the hidden sugar in supermarketfood, sugar has been banned. I check the ingredientslist on products very frequently now to see what is in there and by doing so, I've really lost my apetite for much of them, meaning even less readymade stuff gets used. Stuff like sauces, mixed spices or those brothcubes.... You'll be scared if you pay attention to what is used in those!
Subsequently my feedingpattern has changed more than just using (a lot) less sugar. I used to drink my coffee with milk and sugar, but switched to black instead and as a result of that drink even less of it. I ate yoghurt, but only with sugar in it. No more sugar means no more yoghurt, so basically I am dairyproductfree, too.
All in all it resulted in me drinking much more water, you know, that colourless stuff that comes out of the tap. I drink at least 1-1,5 liter of it per day now, either pure (it comes out of the ground and only soilparticles are filtered out) or as tea. That used to be less then 0,5.. I also eat much more fruit, especially if I have a snackcraving. Up to 2 pieces a day vs. 1-2 pieces a week. I learned that fresh or even some raw food tastes a lot better than befor! I enjoy knibbling on a carrot or a piece of cucumber. Even tomatoes are better! I know that the freshpart, when coming from a supermarket is anything but fresh, but it is the closest we can get to these days.


And all that in just over a week???

(That does not mean I live like a monk now! Had a sugarcoated belgian waffle last night and just thinking about it now makes my mouth water. Literally..... and I still have my chips and beer in the weekends)

Because of all this I spend much more attention to food and the preparation of it. We used to use basic ingredients befor, but we are in the proces of stepping this up more. I tend to look at things like saucages, canned food and such more seen as survivalfood rather than real food. Survival as in backupresources. How this will develop in the future and how this effects our finances, we'll have to see. Because let's face it; bad food is cheap food....

Even although I am going through that dreaded changing-of-the-seasons-thing it is not nearly as hard as it used to be. I still am at a deadpoint, where I feel tired and not up to much, but the biggest diference is between my ears; I do not feel depressed or moody! I don't know if that is because we are living with the seasons much more or if that is because of the change in diet. Probably a mix of things. This probably means getting a headstart, when spring does kick in and the atmosphere here at home greatly benefits from that as well.

Apart from some significant changes indoors, there are significant changes going on outdoors as well. We had an unusual coldsnap these last few weeks with some serious frost, strong eastern winds and dry snow. This makes a quit unpleasant mix!
Going out became dangerous. The thaw preceding this period and the refreezing of the meltwater had created an ice sheet of the flatter surfaces. The strong winds with the dry snow scoured the surface smooth and than covered it by powderdry snow. Slipping up was quit easy. We tried and have proven that. After several ungentle and hard landings, with or without injuries, by some familymembers and visitors, both large and small, we limited going out to the bare essential. Getting wood for the heater was treacherous and even the kids refused to go out. There wasn't much activity in the village either. For next winter we definitely need to by some of those spiked over-the-shoe-puller-thingies.
During this period we were visited by a group of sidensvansar, seeking shelter from the hard wind in the large pinetree in front of our house. An excellent opportunity to study them. Beautyfull birds with interesting colours, their headfeathers blowing about in the wind, making them look like one of those cartoony longhaired pianoplayers.

But that has been changing the last couple of days! The wind has gone and so has the snow. The sun shows it's growing force by giving us temperaturs on the positive side of the scale and the icesheet melts away again.
Yesterday afternoon I enjoyed some warmth and sunshine on our balcony and discovered that this has another advantage; it's position and hight allows us to be nearer and higher up in the canopy of the trees around us, giving us a better view of the life within it!
I stood there for at least an hour and a half, looking at the birds, listening at their sounds. They have become so active now and their calls have changed even more. I heard a gale of wind approach as it moved through the trees towards me, like the rushing of a nearing wave. And I enjoyed the smell of the wood on the walls
Don't know the pretty lady, but the pic shows what I meant to say.
being warmed by the sun. This wood is covered in faluröd-paint, which is a residual product from the coppermines nearby, ground into a powder and mixed with lineseeloil (I think). This gives a faint, but distinct smell and one which I happened to like. And while standing there my hightened sences picked up something else. Something which I had not noticed consiously befor.... Another distinct smell; very faint, but still very noticeably, filling up the senses, the body and the head, triggering an instead reaction deep within.
It was softly sweet, earthy, plantlike, flowery. The scent of spring! I believe the sap has started to rise!

Life around us is stirring again too!
Two days ago I had some live entertainment during lunch. Two woodpeckers were busy feeding at the large birch in front of our kitchenwindow, hacking away pieces of bark and pulling out white grubs.

The domherre (bullfinches) have definetely begun to pair up. I seldom see a single one. I love these birds; their colouring, their posture.. And when they sit in the sunlight the males seem to give of light in a bright pinkish orangy red and the females glow in a brownish grey.

And for the first time in months I spotted a blackbird. They're coming back....

The falcon I spotted earlier has visited again too. He sat in a tree behind the large birch with its back towards the house. It looked like a giant darkgrey washpin. He didn't sit still for long, though. Busy little bird, but not as busy as the several tits-species. The whizz and buzz around the house, chasing each other in hot pursuit and very close to each other, not even disturbed by a pair of crows that have shown up. These are some big birds!! I saw one of the jays again too. Only the female. Maybe the male didn't make it.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Food for thought

My 100th post.... It almost seems as if I have a lot to say....
One hundred posts and looking back I think I have come a long way....
I wanted my 100th to be one with a meaning, a post of significance. I do have some items waiting in line, but some of those should stay there for a while, untill things have developed. Other will stay there, because they are not all that shocking or important....

So... what should this one be about? I though it might be a good thing to talk about something that effects each and everyone of us; FOOD!
It is something we all need on a dayly basis, something we all think about, yet I have the idea that the vast majority is unaware of what is going on with our food these days. Every once in a while a major scandal pops up in the media about our food and mostly because there has been some obvious foul play with the manufacturing of it. But over the years I have discovered (or think I have) that there is much more foul play going on on much more subtle levels. Ever since I was "diagnosed" with far to high levels of cholesterol over the whole range, LDL, HDL and tryclycerids, that I have been thinking things over, started asking questions and started looking for answers. The developing picture was not a pretty one!
I firmly believe that the masses are constantly lied to about food, are constantly bombarded, indoctrinated, maybe even brainwashed about modern food and how "healthy" some are and how "unhealthy" others are, but quit recently my search for answers has been rekindled by the appearance of a new word "the paleo-diet". Some of the people we know, eat in a certain way that, at first, did not make much sense to me. I thought it was just the next hype, just as Montignac or Atkinson, untill I started to dig a bit deeper. I came across websites, blogs and articles that made me look in awe... in shock... and even in horror. I knew we were being played for a fool by the big foodproducing companies from my cholesterol "illness" days, but this.... This even surpassed my already suspicious mind.
The blog I meant was this one; Het paleo perspectief. Unfortunately for many of you it is in Dutch, but the guy writing it gives many references and sources and the mayority of those are in English.
And that's the refreshing part. Not only does the guy seem to know what he is talking about, but he also provides plenty of sources and names to back his stories up, which one can verify for oneself, provided you understand what it is they are talking about.
Reading on I came across terms like "wheat belly", lowcarbfood, cholesterol not necessarily being bad, but sugar and grains are, fat is good, bread's a killer etc..... But also other things are being talked about. Things like sustainable farming, consuming natural foods, becoming healthy by avoiding certain everyday foods, like sugar, bread, cereals and pastas, yet that eating meat and fat is actually good for you! Stuff like that....

I have only just begun to scratch the surface, but there's certainly "food for thought", there.

Here are some things you might find interesting;
Nutrition Science Initiative
Joel Salatin

Recently I also heard about the foodscandal, where ready-to-eat-meals contain horsemeat instead of other meat and I found an article at the Swedish Naturskyddföreningen stating that there are illegal chemicals in half of the products we consume as food (see here kemikalier hittas i allt fler livsmedel)

All these messages have got me thinking and I must admit it is hard not to become paranoid about it! I honestly no longer know what or who to believe.... But the trust has long gone.

So I'll start by cutting back on sugar and go from there. One step at a time, (because I already noticed how hard the lowsugarthing actuallt is!) At this moment however I have no idea how to eat really healthy, based on a low income and feeding a family of five. Untill I do I will be our family's guineepig. Allready chucked out the cholesterolmeds years ago, sugar's next and in due time I'll give the no-wheat-approach a try too.... What have I got to loose?

Apart from all this we'll be starting homegrowing fruit and vegetables this year. It is what we have been planning to do all along and we used to do so in Holland too But since the climate is a bit different here, we had to relearn the basics about having a (food)garden. Planting and sowing requires a different approach and timetable and many species of plants we had in Holland will not survive here. Also the soil is fundamentally different here and there's the wildlife to consider. On the plusside we have a large and free supply of horsemanure and we'll be adding chickensmanure to that too soon (hopefully).

All in all this should result in healthier food, cheaper and with a far less ecological footprint than that stuff they sell at the supermarkets. Since we will not be using any chemicals for cropprotection or furtilisation the chemicals in the foodissue will be absent too. What we can not grow ourselves, we'll buy locally. There's a potatoeframer here that has delicious potatoes, ecologically grown, for instance. And last year our community has been facilitated with a local slaughterhouse, where you can buy locally grown and slaughtered pigs, cows and even game. As for the storage we'll be using grandma's way; storing the fruit and vegetables in glass jars, containing nothing but (ground)water and a dash of salt, bury them in sandboxes or in crates in a cool and dark place, which we happen to have now!
Other (wild) futureplans include beekeeping (not so wild) and having a horse or two (a bit wilder). Maybe even a cow (quit wild)! ;)

Guess the trying woodsman is becoming more and more of a trying homesteader.... but personally I believe this is just a natural development, given the change in lifestyle so far and the interest in and love for the outdoors, nature, lowimpact and simplicity or basicness of life.

In order to avoid losing contact with the natural world (as if that were even possible) I am planning on learning about the natural plantresources this region has to offer.
I found a couple of books, describing the most common trees, shrubs and herbs in our part of the world and their nutricional or even medicinal properties and uses. I already had this great book on mushrooms, so I think this spectrum of foodsupplies is well covered.

So even if hunting and killing should prove to be not for me, we'll still have enough to trade or give away.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Two important lessons to be learned. With an addition!

A great day today....
First we received a call from my mother in law; if I wanted to have a deerskin?? Well, ehmm, yes! Offcourse!
The story behind this is kind of sad, though. One of the deer that has been fed all winter by my parents in law  had started to limp and it grew worse every day for the last two weeks. Yesterday it was so bad, that they decided to call a neighbouring hunter in order to put the animal out of its misery. After the animal had been shot, it turned out that one of its hindlegs was broken and she had been dragging it along all this time. It was beyond healing.
So after the animal was shot, my mother in law called me, knowing my interest in the outdoors and the old handcrafts involved, which includes hidetanning.....

So I ended up driving to their place to collect one bag, containing a hide and a head with brains. Upon arrival I looked into the bag and saw a hide and head and swallowed.... If I'd like some coffee first. OK, love to. Than they told me that the bag on the porch actually contained the hide and head of another deer, which had been frozen all winter, but had thawed out now. I could have that one, too and I could come and get the female's hide after it had been butchered. That meant 2 hides to learn from!
When I came home I though about how to handle it all. I had never killed an animal befor, never butchered one, except the bird a while a go and here I was....left with a bloody, messy hide and a head, from which I still have to extract the brain. OK, take a deep breath, put on some latexgloves, both because I have wounds on my hands and because I had never actually touched something like this befor. Didn't know what to expect and didn't want to overdo it either.

So I needed a flat and hard underground to put the hide on and after thinking thought the balcony would do just fine. Holding the hide felt weird, holding up its head even more so. And that smell.... No, not the smell of decay; the smell of the animal, the hide, the blood..... It'll take some getting used to. I scraped off the lumps of flesh still attached, salted the hide and contacted a fellow outdoorsman, who has done this a few times himself. I just left it at that, because it was getting late.

And about an hour later one of our "neighbours" from the village called and asked if we'd like to have some fish. Ehhh.... sure... I didn't know the person in question, but my daughter did. Turns out that it was the woman living 2 houses further down the street. She's from Russia and they appearantly like to icefish. The fish were caught only minutes befor. Right from under the ice, into a bag and into our hands..... after I had removed the hook from the animal. It was a doublehook with a spring, but like a pincer. So I have to learn how to handle and tan deerhides AND how to clean up fish.... Two very important lessons in the life of a Dutch cityboy. I talked to our neighbour for a while, because we had never met befor and this was a bit of an awkward introduction.
When I got home I put the fish into the refridgerator and later in the evening I took them out, because my youngest daughter wanted to see them, too. And did they have a surprise for me! My son saw them moving! They were still alive! So I was left with the task of killing them.... Great.... Never killed an animal befor.... And these were big fish, about 40cm in length. How do you kill a fish?? I remembered having read something about knocking the hard on the head or bang them with their heads on a rock. Ehhhh....OK.... I can do that..... but with what? Where's a club or a stone when you need one? Then I had the bright idea to take them out onto the balcony and smash it's head in against the railing. Not a rock, but still hard. Shit.... how do you handle such a big and slippery fish without letting go of it? And boy...  I so do not like the smell of fish!!!
So yet again I put on gloves, grabbed the fish, thanked them for the food they'll provide us with, took a deep breath and hit them hard with their heads against the metal railing. Boïïngggg..... That's one. Boïïngggg and that's two.... I had just killed my first two animals...ever. And it did not make me feel like a great, selfrelying  outdoorsman. Too much of a sensitive charactre, I guess. So I took the fish back in and put them back into the glass oventray. That's that and tomorrow my wife can show me how to clean and prepare them. I turned around and in the corner of my eye I saw movement. One, the biggest, still moved. Damn.... so the ritual repeated. I hit the fish again..... and again.....and again.... Godd*** How much can such a fishskull take?? Do I really need a hammer?? At long last both stopped moving and they left me a little unnerved... to say the least. And I want to learn hunting? Actually aim at a living animal, seeing its beauty and pull the trigger???
I don't know. I still have a long way to go and a lot to learn untill than. Maybe I'll just stick to a camera, but one day I will try....
I think I crossed two main lines today, yet the cityboy within me is still a bit shocked. I guess it'll get easier with each time, but I am sure it will never be really easy...

Ohhh the species of fish is locally know as Gädda (Esox lucius)

Addition 05-03-2013
The pike we de clean that same evening, after ringing my father in law. He told us to do that right away, so we did. My wife took care of the first one. That's the one who's head I smashed in... She had never handled a fish this big befor, but figured it would be the same as a herring, only bigger. Turned out these fish are quit a bit tougher! Upon opening them, we discovered that both were loaded with eggs. We discarded those as neither one of us likes that stuff. After she had finished the first one, it was my turn of nr.2. Well, I did struggle quit a bit with this slippery bugger. And then they say slippery as an eel!

As for the deerhide; well, that one ended up in the dumpster. Too bad, really as I liked the fur on it a lot.
But I had contacted someone who had done this quit a number of times and he told me that is was very hard to keep a winterpelt pretty. The hair will fall out quit easily.
As I went to work to scrape the hide clean, the first thing I noticed that it was quit hard to do so, after it had dried! And it was dry.... it felt like cardboard or even stiffer. That salt really does drain liquid from it. Also I found quit a few small flies in it, despite the salt. I guess I missed a few spots. The hide did have quit a number of larger holes in it. Round ones, as it it had been cut out... or eaten? I know there is a bug, which does that, living under the skin of deer and such. I only forgot what it is called. Ot maybe the skinner wasn't the most lighthanded one. Actually I know he's not the most lighthanded and delicate guy around, so...
What really ended this "class" was the discovery of many small holes in the hide. Did some animal take a bite? Maybe a bird pecked at it? Then I discovered metal pellets. Quit many of them with a diameter of about 3-4mm, imbedded in the skin, just below the surface. Someone had shot at this deer with buckshot! Given the spread of the impacts, I'd say from a pretty close range, since most of the pellets were within a 25cm radius from the next one. The whole leftside had been punctured, but the hindquarter got the majority of hits. The pellets had penetrated the fur and skin, but not the flesh, rendering the hide useless in my opinion. This animal must have suffered quit a bit, I think.
I am no hunter and have little knowledge about it, but this kind of ordnance does not seem to be the right one for this kind of animal? Damn triggerhappy yahoos!!

Well, I am still thankfull for this gift. I got to experience things up close. Got to see, feel and smell what is is like to work with materials like this. Got a pretty clear idea that I had no real idea of what I was doing and that someone explaining it to me and pointing the do's and don'ts should prove to be usefull! Like with the fish....
They say there's a first time for everything and I am happy to say that there are a few firsttimes I can tick off now. Many more to come!!!