Friday, May 31, 2013

Dyeing with natural materials - the summeranorak and nettles.

As I said in one of the posts regarding the winteranorak, I have turned my attention to the summeranorak now. I have been thinking about what colour to go for. Green's my favorit, but I have so much stuff in green allready. I chose to let the intended purpose for the anorak decide. I will most likely use it, when the weather is less than warm and sunny, meaning during the early hours, at night, when it's a bit colder or rains; autumn! So I figured I'd go for a brown colour, since that matches the seasonalcolours best.
I checked several sites for references, including the one I used last time; mainly pioneer thinking, but I also checked numerous other online sources. As a source for brown I knew I could use dandelionroots, bark, juniperberries and goldenrod. So I started collecting these.... and ran into difficulties! Dandelions we have plenty, collecting their roots however is easier said than done, give the very rocky soil we have here. Everytime I tried to dig one up, it broke, leaving only a small portion of the root attached to the plant. A small lesson learned here; wear gloves! It gets quit sticky, when the juices dry on your hands.... This way it would take an awefull long time and an equal amount of effort to collect enough. What about the bark then? There's plenty to go around? I knew it had to be the bark from an evergreen and since I had plenty of leftovers from the sprucetrees I cut down last autumn, I started cutting of the bark from that. When I was almost done I had a sudden impulse of genius!! Why not recheck the sources, befor using this material? Turns out I need pinebark, not spruce....... Bark is out the window too, then. By the way, use gloves. They're easier to remove than the resin....
Juniperberries, they should give a nice deep brown..... if they were available. Last option the goldenrod. Not really a plant you might find in the wild around here, but we have several patches of them in the garden. Unfortunately these patches are not all the big and I need plenty of goldenrodshoots. I also discovered we appearantly have 2 different species; one with dark purpleish stems and one with bright green ones. No idea if that makes any difference. Result; not enough material could be gathered, yet.

So I want for option 2; green.
Upon checking the sources I noticed I could, amongst other things, use nettles... Hey! We have plenty of those!! Checking the internet I came across a wide variety of brownish greens or greenish browns, depending on fabric, season, mordant and quantity.... Great. At least it will give a natural colour, instead of the bright, ivory kind of white the anorak has now.
So I started collecting nettles. Not my favorit kind of plant, since I happen to react quit a lot, when stung. Feeling the stings for hours is no fun, especially if your fingertips get that numb stinging sentation as if they are asleep. Where are my gloves?? I collected a good shoppingbag full, an estimated 2-3kg. The nettles are fresh and green, about 30-40cm in length and I used stems and leaves. Noticed a lot of snail ON the leaves. How come they do not get stung? Does their mucus protect them? I cut it all into small pieces and put them in a large kettle to soak overnight.

The bag was full with nettles and compacted. The kettle in the foreground was filled up to 75% with nettles after which I added water untill they were submerged.

The next day I started the dyeingproces. The anorak was first soaked thoroughly untill the fabric was evenly coloured. The parts that are not thoroughly soaked remain lighter. After that I put it into a large kettle too, but when I wanted to add the vinegar I discovered we had not enough left, only 1 liter of 12% concentrated vinegar. In the basement, however, I had a small jerrycan with leftover vinegar I used to take away rust from and give a patina to metal (see my demilitarising an axe-post). That was a good 2,5 liters too. Why not be a little adventerous and use that? So in it went too, after which I added 5 liters of water to submerge the anorak.

Be carefull when heating the water with anorak! Air trapped within the anorak expands when heated and when you stir or turn the anorak around, that air will escape, sending boiling hot droplets of diluted vinegar into the air!! Wear some protection, at least some gloves and long sleeves.

The kitchen resembles something like a witches' shag; large cauldrons, bubbling with concoctions of an unknown nature, nauxious fumes filling the air....
Allthough the nauxious fumes-part actually isn't quite true. The nettles are actually quite pleasantly smelling, indeed resembling spinach, which I happen to love! Even the vinegar isn't all that bad....

After boiling and simmering the anorak I noticed the vinegar dislodged a great deal of the mineral deposits you inevitably end up with when heating large volumes of water repeatedly, as it did in our Weckkettle. The result were a number of brownish orangy stains in the fabric, which I tried to rinse out as good as possible. Then the anorak went into the, by now, strained nettlesoup and that was boiled and simmered for another hour. The anorak was left to soak further for the rest of the day and night.

This morning I took out the anorak, rinsed it properly and ung it out to dry. I have to admit that I am not impressed or pleased with the endresult. The anorak has taken on a grey-greenish tinge, just enough to make it look like a dirty beige! I have to rethink my options!

As it was, just more yellow.

As it is
Why it didn't work?
I have no idea. Maybe the vinegarmordant wasn't potent enough, either because I used a large part of it befor or because it might have had a reaction to the mineral deposits in the kettle. Maybe the nettles were to young, lacking green colourpigments. Maybe the anorak isn't 100% cotton, but a polycottonblend after all.
What I did notice however, was that underneath the bottons the fabric was slightly more green. But no harm done. I can allways redye it! And I am less hesitant to try and cook  some nettles, now that I have smelled them. Even my oldest daughter thought they smelled good!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Learned young is done old.

You read in my previous post; fishing has been introduced into the family!!
Sven caught hus first fish, using nothing but an extendeble rod and a piece of bread as bait. Within minutes he caught his first one, causing a lot of excitement among the kids. Since the fish was not dead yet (he had nothing to hit the fish on the head with) he just took his knife and cut off the fish's head! Without blinking his eyes! Our neighbour told us that this species of fish are quite plentyfull, but they're not all that good for eating. So we decided that this fish should not go to waste and that Sven should learn how to clean them too.  Our fourlegged familymembers would then enjoy the fresh food, we figured. The fish went into a box with lid, into the fridge to be taken care off later.
Well, that didn't happen.
Sven was going on a schooltrip the next day with an overnighter and everyting still needed to get packed! We hadn't thought of that, so the fish remained in the fridge for 2 days.

A few days later, after Sven came back, he was just to tired from his schooltrip (and he had to take a day off. He was really beaten.) he went fishing again, his 2 sisters following in his wake, and again caused a lot of excitement. He managed to catch 3 fish within 10 minutes using the same method!! Are these fish stupid or is my bread that delicious???

I told hem to stop, since I believe we should not be taking more than we needed and we had enough for a fishcleaningclass and catlunch. I told my youngest duaghter to throw the leftover pieces of bread into the water and in no time more than a dozen fish appeared, even with us moving around on the pier and making noice.

Afterwards my wife showed Sven how to clean the fish and he cleaned the other 2 himself. That's part of fishing too. Seeing him handle a very slippery fish and a sharp knife simultaniously made me slightly nervous, though. And once again our youngest daughter stayed and watched......

And our cats were more than willing to take care of the fish!! This is so much better for them than that factorymade, supermarketjunk they usually eat..... when not catching mice, voles or birds....

The great thing about this all is that not only are the kids getting out and learn to study (parts of) nature and the world around them, they also learn the first steps of taking care for themselves. I was struck by the total absence of disgust with Sven, when he handled the fish, killed them and then cleaned them!
No eeewww, yukkk, groce or any similar reaction, usually seen by kids (at least where we come from) and I started wondering why.
That's when it came to me; we had NOT learned them to be disgusted! We had never told them it was dirty, filthy or unsanitary. Instead we told and showed them that things like this are normal. We learned them that we catch, kill and clean animals for food, skin and other uses. And that we need to do so with respect and gratitude for their offerings. How different have I been brought up!
These small lessons appearantly make a world of difference and will give them an advantage!!

Now all I need to do is learn how to hunt, kill, fielddress, skin and butcher an animal and to show our kids how to recognise and use the plants around them. A lot to learn for me, especially the hunting-killing-dressing-part.

And the fish in the box?? I now know why you should clean them right away instead of 4 days later. It wasn't exactly fresh and appetizingly looking and smelling....

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


I may not roam the forests that much, but that doesn't mean I'm not busy with outdoorthings!
First of all I cured out my illness without the help of medication, antibiotics or any other medical assistance. Just putting my body and it's homedefences to work, assisted by Reiki-energy. What can I say, it worked. It takes a while, but it still is less then recovering from antibiotics. These wreak havoc on my body!

Spring has, once again, proven to be quit a busy time!
The first load of next winter's wood has been stored, about 5-6m³, but befor I can store more I'll have to build a place to store it in! There's 20 tons of gravel lying in the frontyard, waiting to be transferred onto our parkingarea, so the quagmire there will one day resemble something like a actual parkingarea (and I don't even have a wheelcart, yet!). But even the delivery of this load wasn't quit without challenges. The first steps in our foodgarden have been made too. We have (re)planted a good handfull of berrybushes and a couple of rhubarbplants and I found out we do not have the easiest soil to work with. It is almost claylike and it contains a lot of rocks and stones. We have to rethink the rest of our garden if we do not want to ruin our bodies. This means we will have to take gardening to a higher level literally; raised flowerbeds.
Nature is growing full force now and I have never seen grass grow so fast!! It has grown at least 30-35cm and when you do not have the tools to mow it (yet) it is almost terrifying! The nettles and other plants are even faster! I barely recognise our place anymore, so lush and green! But there is another, equially important feature in our little garden of eden; the smell. First the Hägg (Prunus padus) bloomed, filling the air with a sweet and soothing smell and a week later the lilies of the valley or liljekonvalj in Swedish  (Convallaria majalis) added their refreshing sweet scent to it. The wooded area here is carpeted with them! When the wind sweeps through the trees, making the birchleaves russle and you inhale this odourmix, it fills you with joy and leaves you with a relaxed, blissfull feeling. I really wish I could share that with you here, but elas.....

Another absolute spring highlight for me is this; ferns unfolding their leaves....
I have a huge softspot for these plants. They're one of my favorites.

I took care of one of the most important features in a garden for me; a fireplace. I used whatever I could find  in the garden to build it, stones, wooden planks from the old compostbin, pieces of treetrunk (an Asp (Populus tremula). I even reused the old steel nails. The treestump had to be debarked first and then fitted into place between the rocks. Later I found out that these strips of bark, once dried out a bit, burn quit well and give of a pleasant odour, when burning. Flying insects do not like that.

Why is this place so important?? For us it is a central place in the garden, where we gather as a family and socialise or sit alone and let our minds wander... What better way to relax, sitting next to a fire, maybe brew some coffee or tea, talk a little or just sit there quietly.

Apart from being active outside, I had a nerv wracking few days last week too. I was invited for an all-afternoonsession of jobinterviews! Meaning having jobinterviews, groupdiscussion, even a bit of roleplaying and all of it is Swedish.... If the nerves didn't kill me befor the interviews, the exhaustion afterwards did. But I did well! I think I really did, so now all I have to do, is wait for the results, which should come in within 3 weeks. 

Afterwards, when I drove home, I past a secondhandshop and I just had to stop. My mind was still so full I had trouble focussing on the wet road in the drizzling rain on the 35km trip home and I had to take a break. Conveniently this stop was about halfway. And what can I say.... I got rewarded for it. I found something I have been looking for for quit some time now; a pair of all leather boots, local style. The ones with the upturned tips, known as näbbstövlar, meaning "beakboots".
These were comfortably within the affordable pricerange (read dirtcheap!), so no more stomping around in heavy military boots for me! They are in very good shape, next to new Finnish lapikas (or so it says on the label).

By the time I came home, I was greeted by an overexcited daughter, who came storming in. No because i was home... No, because my son had caught a fish! Sven had gone out to the lake with his fishingrod, without any kind of knowledge or experience, except for the very basic ones, and now he had been succesfull!! My wife dashed off with the camera and I trudged after, exhausted and with a heavy, stressinduced headache. When I reached the lake, saw the ecxitement and pride on his face, that was forgotten! This episode has a quit a bit more to it, so I'll dedicate a separate post to that later.

Going back to the subject of garden and plants; my wife and I have learned another lesson; the profound impact of upbringing on the rest of our adult lives!
We noticed it, when Sven caught his fish. He had no hesitation handling the fish, cutting off its head or cleaning it. It was a natural and normal thing to him and we wondered why. The answer was as simple as it was enlightening. We had NOT told him it was NOT!
Why is that so important? Simple, all around us there's food growing. Nettles, dandelions, kirskål, (also known as skvallerkål or kers (Aegopodium podagraria)) even the budding twigs of spruce and these are just the plants that I know of. Yet there is a significant hesitation to collect and consume these plants. The reason has become painfully obvious. All my life I have been taught that these are weeds, not food and should be dealt with as soon as possible. You do not eat anything that just grows out there! You could get seriously ill!! Even though I now know this to be nonsense, there is this mental hurdle that is hard to tackle....... I have to re-raise myself the same way we are raising our own children.
Is there nothing I do with the plants? Ah, but yes. Off course! I have started to collect a number of them to be used in another way; dyeing of fabric! I still have that snowsmock that I want to dye, but I haven't figured out in what colour, yet. So I collected nettels and grass for green, goldenrodshoots for brown, dandelionroots for brown too, Allthough other sources claim it will give red. I was thinking about using the lilies for gree too, but since these plants are very poisonous, the dyebath created from them will be toxic. So I'll skip that. 
I'll get back to this subject in a later post as well.

And as an icing on the cake I want to tell about an event we visited last sunday; the medieval fair in Leksand.

What can I say about it..... It was sunday, wonderfully sunny, temperatures around 20, so..... crowded!
But what an absolutely wonderfull daytrip it was! We have been to a number of similar fairs in Holland with castles, knights in shining armour, fully equipped footsoldiers, canons, the whole circus. Did we expect that here too? No not really, since the middleages here were different from mainland Europe. We also knew that Swedish fairs and markets are not as elaborate as Dutch ones, but afterwards I can say that many a Dutch fair could learn a thing or two from this one!
There were knights, but not in fullplated, shining armour, which makes sence, considering Swedish wintercircumstances. They mix badly with metal and human skin. The knights here wore more wool and leather. The focus of the fair lay with crafts! And that what I was looking and hoping for. The kids had their knights, horses and a few orcs to interact with, the Mss. could feast her eyes on a lot of jewelry, both medieval and gothic/fantasybased and I saw lots of leather, woodworking and even hidepreparation and flinktknapping!
A visual impression;
There were a number of blacksmiths present and I am amazed with what they made, given their tools. I had hoped to be able to find a strikersteel to go with my flint, but did not find any. There weren't that many usable items anyway. Apart from a few vikingcloakpins and some cutlerysets, the vast majority was focussed on decorational items or items for indoor use, like candleholders and such.

I really loved this ingenious, yet basic lathe. A footpedal connected to an axle in the middle and going up to the tops of the sticks. The man treaded down, making the axle spin and the sticks on the sides pulled to rope back up again, causing the axle to spin in the other direction. Treading down again etc.... cutting the wood with each downward tread.

This women was working a beaverpelt, flesh and membrane still attached! It was hard work, but this pelt would make a fantastic hat or mittens! Other women had other skins and pelts in various stages of working. You can see and feel those if you wanted to, but most bystanders commented with an "eeewww"-like respons....

At the end of the day I found this guy, tucked away between other, larger stand. You can see his entire stand in this picture. Unfortunately I could not spend much time there. Those who have spend a day with kids on a fair in warm weather know why. He had a lot of beautifully knapped blades, arrowheads and other objects and as he was talking to another bystander, he showed how he did it in an almost casual way.

"You take this piece of stone and a piece of antler and then *peck* you knock a piece of....."

As said there were many stands selling leatheritems, ranging from necklacestrands, to pouches, boots, shoes, underarourgarments... the whole range. Some were basic and simple, some were..... a bit more elaborate! 
But there was one item that stole my heart!!!

There were also numerous stands selling woolitems, such as medieval clothing, garments, sheepskin and even backpacks. Unfortunately these stands tended to be quit crowded.....
All in all I was very pleasantly surprised with this fair. For me the sheer volume of craftsmanship and the high standard of it, was very welcome. In size it was a quit large fair with dozens of stands and people in appropriate clothing. But one of the things that surprised me most, was the level of  thinking that had gone into it all. There were a good number of foodstands, all with more or less appropriate food, prepared in a non-modernfashion, meaning open fire. The food we had was certainly good! The only downside was the lack of possibilities to acquire drinks, which on a warm, sunny day like this, would have made a lot of difference. I also noted the absence of certain things we often ran into on similar fairs; modern conveniences. meaning no stands with modern types of food or beverages, no electrically powered icecreamstands (there was one, keeping its cream cooled with iceblocks!) and next to no plastics to be seen anywhere! There was one stand selling some plastic weapons, but even these had a sort of wooden look to them. Even the cutlery you got on the foodstands was cardboard for cups and plates and wood for knives and forks!!!
And there was no litter to be found anywhere!!!

What did I get out of this day? One satisfied wife, 3 satisfied kids, with one being happy she chose this instead of her children's birthdayparty one satisfied me, being glad we went out and enjoyed a sunday as I think we should.
The loot for this day? A large leather hairpin from beautifully worked leather and bonepin, 3 thick leather bracelets for the kids, with their names stamped into them and for me another item I have been looking for for quit some time..... A woolfelt hat!

Friday, May 10, 2013

The first swallows are here!

We saw the yesterday and the day befor that!
Wednesday it was just a single one, but yesterday it was a group of 4; wings swept back like a bird of prey and with long and narrow tail, almost spikelike. Turns out they probably were ladusvalor (Hirundo rustica)

And today I saw a pretty little bird I had never seen befor. A beautiful pattern in black and white; a fluggsnapare. It's black deep and shiny, it's white vivid and clear. It's colous really lighting up as it sat in the sun. Like on the following picture, but the black was much deeper.
like this one

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Tickseason's here again!!

So be on the lookout for these little buggers!

here are some tips and tricks on how to handle them properly;
This one's I will be trying myself, soon.
homemaid, natural tick repellent
and another is Swedish

do's and don'ts on tickremoval

We have this tool by the Dutch firm Enetorpet and used it very frequently last season and I can say we are quit happy with it. Easy to use with one hand (while you hold your cat or kid with the other), always within reach (on your keychain or in the wallet), low cost and easy maintanence. There is no connection to the firm by the way.
smart and easy tickremovaltool

Some info on lifecycles and such;
Found these handy images on Germund's blog

See this post as a reminder!
Anything written here is just to show you some items or information, easily found on the interne.  When in doubt ALLWAYS contact a professional medic!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Not much activity here.....

As I have been forced to take it very slow lately (being grounded is more likely). An infection of the airways made sure of that. And quit a nasty one, too! Can't remember having had anything like it at all! I've heard tales about virusinfections to chest, lungs and airways from all around here.
I could have gone the "easy path", running to the doctor and get myself a ton of antibiotics.... Offcourse, me being me, I took the hard way; curing it out without chemicals, firing up that homedefence we call immunesystem and strengthening the body..... later probably. That means taking it slow, but that's mandatory, since my energylevels have dropped significantly. Shortness of breath and fatigue are some of my companions these days. Luckily the weather has improved, so I regularly take some time to soak up that vital vitamin S(un). Combined with much fresh food, fruit and a regular microwavesession (my wife is a reikimaster and when she treats me, I call that microwaving me) means that I am on the mend right now. Progress is frustratingly slow (for me, because I want it to be over NOW), but considering the impact it had, I shouldn't complain.
The reason why I am writing about this, is because I actually wanted to share an experience my wife and I had this afternoon. She was home from work early and yesterday we set up the kids' trampoline. This also happens to make a great place to sip some coffee, read the newspaper and look at the budding trees, watch birds, whilst sitting and/or lying in the sun, soaking up those rays and producing those D's! While we were out there, it hit me; there was a total absence of any manmade noise! Nothing! Just the wind in the trees and the birds around us and we were at home! A deep sence of peace..... It still surprises and amazes me, having lived in cities all my life.... This place really is a gift, with which we are blessed!
We could watch how several birds have started, or are about to, inhabiting the various birdhouses the previous owner hung up. There are at least 2 couples of blåmes housing in them and there were squables over a third one. I witnessed a rödstjärt checking out another one and it came back again later. I so hope they will nest in there, too!

(The first thing I'll do, when I get a job, is start saving for a decent camera!!)

And when the kids got home, we had to vacate the trampoline, but after a while I had to fullfill a promiss I made a while ago. I had to start teaching my youngest daughter how to handle a knife.
For that we used my wife's first Moraknife; a Mora scout from the '80's!

And while I'm at it, I might as well tell you about some other stuff. The number of animalspecies we see around here is increasing at an almost explosive pace. There's so much going on I can't keep up!
We saw our first bats at the 20th of april, flapping around the balcony and during the day we saw several species of butterfly, like sorgmantel (Nymphalis antiopa Linné 1758) and påfågelöga (Inachis io). Offcourse many new birdspecies like taltrast (Turdus philomelos) , björktrast (Turdus pilaris) , stenskvätta (Oenanthe oenanthe), träpiplärka (Anthus trivialis) and a tornfalk (Falco tinnunculus) . These are just the ones I could identify with a form of certainty!
And last weekend I could add a rödstjärt (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) to that list. I am impressed by the sheer variations in the colours and patterns!

There are however some guests that I find peculiar; gulls! (Larus canus) I always associated these with the sea, so seeing and above all hearing them, gives this place a strange coastal atmosphere.

But some very special guests made their presence know on a special night. On the night of the 30th was walpurgisafton, which we celebrated with our very own bonfire. We had collected a large pile of natural debris from the garden and at night we lit that, saying farewell to winter and welcoming spring..... under the distinct and loud calls of loons! (or storlom (Gavia arctica) as it is know here). Regular readers know  have a soft spot for these wonderfull birds and their primeval, eerie calls.

Previous to the fire we went to the lake in order to just look at it and pass the time untill it would be dark enough. There we saw a couple of them, peacefully floating on the water. Later, during and after the fire, we heard their calls, coming from 3 distinctly different directions! Maybe one of them was an echo, but that still leaves 2 seperate calls. Don't know how big a loonterritory is....