Saturday, August 31, 2013

A fruitful episode

The season of the morningmists has begun. The air has begun to chill, especially in the evening and mornings. Geese and cranes have started to gather in the grainfields, which the farmers have begun to harvest...
Autumn is knocking at our doors!

As I wrote last year, the foragingurge is making itself noticeable and since our berrybushes are not yet large enough to carry any substantial number of berries, some of our friends here lend us theres. we could pick all the berries we wanted at their place, since they already had enough. The same goes for apples.
So one morning the Mss. and I went to the pickingbusiness. My wife went for the red currants (Ribes rubrum)  and I for the red gooseberries (Ribes uva-crispa).
While picking I could not help but think about how very much the same it might have been for people through all the ages, doing the same thing.... apart from the jeans and the plastic bucket. But they'd still recognise it all..... and it's a prickly business picking those gooseberries... but they are so delicious!
All around us fruit is very abundant and that reminded me of a saying my grandparents used to say:"If the harvest is good, prepare for winter to come!"

Another thing I am busy with is helping out with the potatoharvest. This is an entirely new experience for me; working at a farm. One of my jobs is to stand on the harvester and pick out any unwatned things from between the potatoes as they come by on a conveyerbelt; stones, lumps of soil, rotten, damaged or unripe potatoes. It's a good exercise for the hand to eye coordination; spotting, picking and discarding of the item with one hand, while the other is doing the same thing simultaniously in another spot! Between the stuff that comes up I found many animalremains, but I kept 2; the underjaw of both a deer and a moose. I'll be using the teeth is some way.
On the first day I had to pick some potatoes by hand, since the automated picking went wrong somehow and I was told I could keep the ones  picked; a good 25kg in all! Later that day we harvested another sort and while filling the containers with the harvest, some were overfilled and spilled some potatoes. I picked these up too, but was told not to put them with the others. They might be bruised or damaged by the fall, so I could have those too. Another few kg's in the bag!
But my first workingday started out well in another matter. The farmer switches fields every year and this year he tried peas as a fertilising crop. There was a tractor with wagon standing on the lot and the peas poured out at the back. Without question I started helping fixing the problem and picking up the spilled peas. Later I mentioned that I'd like to try some and I was told I could help myself..... So the first day was a very rewarding one; about 30kg's of potatoes and some 5kg's of peas...handpicked by me...

Another first for me was taking a ride in a tractor. Never did that befor and I felt like a small boy living out a dream; here I was, looking as a farmer, riding a tractor and harvesting crops!! Damn, that felt so good!! But the best was still to come. On our way back from the field the father of the farmer, with whom I was riding along, pulled over and said;" Now we'll switch seats..." He knew it was my first time on such a machine ever, but he thought that it was a good idea to get me familiarised with the equipment if I were to stay for a longer period of time. So there I was; sitting behind the steeringwheel of an unfamilair vehicle with a trailer (another first time!) loaded with a few tons of potatoes...on a less then flat tarmac....and other traffic.... It was not as easy as it sounds.... But my wife saw the grin on my face, when she came to pick me up.... A big one....

yup... it was this one.
I even enjoyed the work, despite it being noisy, dusty, hectic at times, standing at a conveyerbelt, but I am doing a job that counts. I am harvesting food. I am outside all day, work out that lazy body of mine, have enough time in between harvestingruns to look at the world around me, seeing the land and forests, hearing the gathering geese and cranes and I sure as hell did get "a taste of the land". The dust in my mouth makes sure of that. ;) The icing on the cake was the friday afternoon. We were just about to wrap it all up for that day. Maybe have one or two more loads, when the farmer's mother showed up with an applepie, straight from the oven. We sat there in the field next to the potatofield, in the sun with our butts in the remaining hay, fresh applepie in one hand and a steaming hot cup of coffee in the other.... It just felt so good, so right.... No beachholiday could ever match that!

A salvaging operation or "lucky me!"

Last week, while I was working on a wooden fence, surrounding an appartmentblock, I had to wait a while untill the batteries of the screwdriver had recharged. To pass that time meaningfully I started cleaning up a stored inventory of someone who had left suddenly without paying his rent. What was left inside the appartment was confiscated and stored, but it looked much more like a pile of garbage then anything else.
I started going through the stacked boxes and bags, in order to sort out the junk, making piles of paper, plastic, metal etc, so it would be easier later on to dispose of it.
Much of it indeed was just garbage, but I also found some useable items. I was told that whatever I wanted I could take, since it was all destined for the garbagedump anyway.....
So here's my loot for a few hours of work, apart from the pay of course....
a woolen blanket

a collection of old and/or usefull tools and toolbox

antique tools

Look at that pattern!
I wanted it if it was even onlöy for decorational purposes!

an antique coffeegrinder and an eskilstuna knife,
similar to a Mora scout, but suitable for an adulthand, meaning bigger and beefier.

a small chest made of woven woodstrips
And all of it fully operational! Maybe some knicks here and there, but in good shape.

I'd really hate to see stuff like that ending up on a dump!

A substantial load of garbage and paper/cardboard ended up in the appropriate containers.....

Monday, August 12, 2013

A one-match-firemaking-drill in soaking wet conditions

Because of my difficulties getting a fire going on the last trip, I set myself the goal to go over the basics once more, but in order to challenge myself I made things "a bit" harder. I was going to make a "onematchfire" in soaking wet conditions, using only what was naturally available in my back yard.
Last week we had quite some rain and during the night from thursday to friday it poured all night. So on fridaymorning I went to our fireplace, armed with a knife and a matchbox, determined to get a fire going using just those and within a reasonable amount of time. During the "exercise" it did not actually rain, but the canopy overhead was laden with droplets, so every gust of wind meant that what ever was underneath would be showered. Thus rain was adequately mimicked.......
I started looking for dead standing wood. but there was none available, neither were spruce or pine. That made it even more interesting. The first thing I did was take some birchbark and stuck it in the pocket of my pants, so it could dry, while I was busy. I also found some rönnbär-bark, or rowan/mountain ash. It had fallen of the tree and looked promissing. So that followed the birchbark into the pocket. The firewood I gathered were dead branches from birch, rowan and juniper, since that was all there was. On the birchbranches a thick layer of moss had formed, soaking wet and spongy. It actually was a sponge, because when I squeezed the branch, water would pour out of the mosses.

as can be seen here, between the fingertips...
I started preparing the wood by first stripping off all the bark and mosses. Then I cut off al the darker coloured, wet wood untill I reached the dry and light coloured wood. I split some branches into ever smaller strips, untill I had a supply of all sizes. I used all 3 wood types for this. I also made shaving and some small featherstick like contraptions....
I noticed that rowanwood tends to soak up water even under the bark, so that makes it not very desirable for this type of fire. The drier pieces did burn remarkably well, though.
the wood in various stages of preparations.

When shaving off the juniperbark, it formed small curls, which easily took a flame, even when moist.

The darker areas of the rowanwood are wet, even underneath the bark.
I started building a small pagodafire, after clearing away the wet debris. I filled it with the shaving......

and used my one match.....
Carefully adding bits of dry and prepared wood, slowly increasing their size. I did keep aboult half of the prepared shavings and kindling, just as a precaution for when the fire was about to die out... Good thing I did. Learned that a few previuos times... By keeping the pagodastructure I was able to dry out the larger of wood, befor they were actually added to the fire and steadily growing bed of coals.

Here is the piece of rowanbark. It was still wet on the inside, but the outside easily took a flame and kept it.
More experimenting with this fuel will follow shortly.
After a decent bed of coals had been established I wanted to see how well the fire would work, so I added a pile of even the wettest stuff on top. By this time there was enough heat to even dry out that and to light it as well..... Mission accomplished!!

While I was sitting there, feeling smug about having achieved this, I witnessed a small spider with a cluster of eggs attached to its abdomen, walk right up to the fire. I was think:" Stop there buddy. You'll burn up!", when all of a sudden it stopped, turned and lifted the eggcluster up. It was warming them in a place so warm, I couldn't even hold my hand there!!

I never did use the bark to light the fire. Didn't have to. All in all it took me a bit over 45 minutes from start to a decent fire. Not bad at all....

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Heat, I love to hate it...

I mentioned I do not like heat on quite a number of occassions. It has got me thinking; why don't I like heat? Why don't I like summer as much as everyone else? Why do I prefer cooler periods like spring, autumn or even winter?
In order to try and answer these questions I need to analyse my own feelings, both outer and inner. What is it that makes me dislike warmth and makes me prefer coolness.
Maybe I had unpleasant experiences in warm enviroments, seasons or circumstances. Or maybe it is just the opposite. Maybe I like being in the coolness or cold more for some reason and I associate that with pleasant feelings. I know I like wearing long sleeved clothing, pants with long legs. Wool sweaters in particulair!!
Maybe previous experiences make me want to protect my body or myself from external factors. My past certainly could imply that.
But I do believe there's more. If I am to believe many scientists humans have evolved from mediteranian enviroments. According to new theories even from aquatic ones. Hence the lack of bodily hair, except in vulnerable areas, the suggested diet we thrive upon and even the inborn ability for newborns to swim.
On the other hand I also do believe that many of us have lived befor. That's right; reincarnation. That could also explain certain talents, gifts or preferences. Data from a previous life, not completely erased. Might explain my liking of cool climates and the feeling of being at home, here. But I degress.....

In order to explain my discomfort in warm circumstances, like on a hot summers day or even in the sauna, I have to analyse what I feel, first. I feel lazy, heavy and weighted down. I have problems concentrating or being fysically active, which results in loosing interest in things to do. I get a headache quite fast, even when not being dehydrated. I loose appetite and might even get cranky and irritable (not even might. I easily do).... unless I have a few days to aclimatize, needing a period of consistant warm weather to do so.  About 5-6 days would show an large improvement, but the "symptoms" never vanish. They just get less. Funny thing is that my oldest daughter copes just as well as I do. Recent experiences confirm that. Actually many of these "symptoms" are quite similar to having a cold or feeling sick or feeverish. This is what I feel fysically, but that doesn't mean they're not mentally either.
Then there are the external factors too. Of course there are the bugs. I have a particulair dislike for wasps, based on previous experiences and for ticks, which I can not explain. Maybe I conditioned myself into that... There's nettles too and I noticed that I react quite strongly to their sting, meaning the place of contact, usually the hands and fingers tingle painfully for hours after. Waspstings tend to create a lot of pain too, without an allergic reaction. I just have a very sensitive disposition.
I also do not like bright, sunny days. The light actually hurts my eyes and even my skin, yet it does tan quite fast and deep. The sun has a different colour during summer and it burns, literally.... Even after a period of getting used to the heat I tend to stay in shady areas.
All this means I feel quite limited during this season (and thus get frustrated easily). All enjoyable feelings I relate to summer include lowlevel energetic activities, like lounging around, reading, barbequeing, drinking cold beverages, preferably during summernights or in shady areas. A walk in the woods can be not all the enjoyable, when the heat presses down on you, even between the trees. So I tend to shift being active in the early morning or in the evening.... Luckily the humidity here is a lot less then in Holland. That combination is an absolute killer to me.

Now why do I like colder or cooler circumstances?
I can wear long sleeves or pants, withour feeling hot. But even without I am not severely affected by cold. I can be out in short sleevs, when everyone around me is wearing a thick coat. I usually feel comfortable temperaturewise, when most sit around, with chattering teeth. Again my oldest daughter has the same, even surpasses me!
But I do feel very comfortable in wool sweaters or pants and as soon as it is acceptable I wear them. I like the feeling on my skin. I feel warm and secure. Even in the summer I sleep under a thin woolen blanket. But even without the wool I used to wear nothing but longlegged pants for many years. It is only since a few years that I wear shorts again....
couldn't resist...
So appearantly there is the need for protection. Some who know me might argue that's due to my past..... On the other hand I see this in my son and my youngest daughter too. They too love wool sweaters and will wear them as soon as it is acceptable.
But the cold also has a huge impact on me, my behaviour and my wellbeing. I feel an almost childish extasy, looking at the coloured leaves in autumn, but most of all the first snowfall of the season! Sparks an almost frantic energysurge, as I really want to go out and roll around, toss and play with either leaves or snow.
The first nightfrosts induce a state of feeling high, when I come out in the morning and take deep breaths of air, even when I shiver or feel cold. It refreshes the mind, body and soul in an unexplainable way in sharp contrast to the feeling of hybernation that does occur later in winter, when lack of natural light starts to take effect. But in the hours of daylight I tend to be awake, fresh and energetic.
Of course I curse the strong northern wind at -20, which chills you to the bone, no matter what you wear and of course I eagerly await and greet the first warming rays of sun in late winter or early spring, but looking at it all I have to say that there are far more positive feelings about coolness than about warmth or at least the first outweigh the last. Experiences do colour our perception. That is a fact.

But it goes further than that.
The boreal area has a high ranking on my prefered landscapes, where as jungles do not. I like looking at images from Alaska, Canada and the northeastern states of the US, but much less images from Florida, Arizona or central America. Mountanous terrain captures my interest much easier than tropical islands. I'd pick a bear, wolf or moose over a lion, elephant or monkey anytime.
It has always been this way, even from my earliest bookholding or tv-watchingdays.

The only factor that works just the other way around is rain.
I welcome it in summer, but dispise it in colder weather. The reason is simple. In summer it refreshes, where as in colder weather it creates pain and discomfort. I can dance in a downpour after a hot and sunny day, but mope around miserably on a dark and wet novemberday...

So... are these conditions selfinduced and conditioned or is there a deeper reason for this?
All of the above, I guess. One influences the other, emphasises it, but I do think that the basis for it lies deep within. A deep connection with a certain condition, climate or area, which influences all of the above. But where does that deeper connection come from? Is it congenital? Is it behaviour, imprinted in to us by early experiences? A mixture of both? Or is there even that other factor; inheritence?
All I know is that people have often very different preferences and feel very strongly about them. Most people I know prefer it just the other way around and take me for a madman. And I have trouble imagining their love of the heat and the sun.

What has all this to do with the outdoors?
Simple; it profoundly affects me and therefor my ability to act, react and interact with my surroundings.
Understanding myself is vital to that ability, because I can take it into account and act accordingly.
And putting it down in writing makes it visual to me, making it possible to order my thoughts and feelings and to make it clear to myself and possibly other as well. It also helps to keep things in perspective, to not overmagnify the one over the other.
It is an all important lesson to me.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thunderstorms and butterflies

source; Nillas blogg
Last night we were treated to our first, real, genuine, countryside, at the end of a valley, between hills, summer thunderstorm!
Actually there were 2 in quick succession. It was an awe inspiring experience. It took a while for the first one to build up and roll in, but we could hear it coming for a while. The wind was steadily picking up, thunder rolling in the distance, a few flashes and then..... It was there. Thunder rolling down the hills, across the valley and then being echoed back. I never heard thunder rumble this long uninterrupted! Next came lightning with some very clear bolts flashing down and some others reflecting across the sky, turning the clouds a bright pinkish purple. A curtain of rain came sweeping in, cascading down from the heavens as if there was no tomorrow. So much for a shortage of rain this summer! The raingutters just could not keep up and created a curtain of water on their own.
Tried to take a picture of that, but that did not work too well. While doing that I was startled by a large lightningbolt on top of the hills, right in front of our house....
Within 10 minutes after the storm passed right over our house, another rolled in, but not befor the sky had cleared to reveal the darkening blue of the sunset. It was a strange experience and we were treated to a smaller version of the first.

This brought a slight change of weather and my oldest daughter an I had made plans to go out on a dayhike today. The forecast was nice and cool, dry and slightly overcast with some sun in between. So we packed our stuff and were off. The plan was to visit the rocky outcrop I showed earlier, do some learning on tree identification, make a warm lunch and just suck in some woodair. We also prepared to collect berries, so took along a couple of small buckets with lids and a berrypicker.
As we set out, it was grey, but windstill and quite comfortable, temperaturewise... Everything around us was still soaking wet, though. Airhumidity was very high and even between the trees the temperature was not below 20°C, meaning we were sweating conciderably soon. 

She saw something.......                                                                   Should've known......

We found many, many raspberries, thick and juicy, but unfortunately little or no bill/blueberries (but some seriously purple droppings) and very few lingonberries. We did not see a single mushroom either. We did find a lot of juniperberries though!

After we hiked to the rockcliff we sat down and looked around, catching our breath and trying to dry up a little. It did not feel like a Scandinavian pine- or birchforest down there, but more like a central American jungle!

As we sat there, we noticed that we already had worked up an apetite. It was just 11:00 am! So we started to "set up camp"... But we noticed we forgot something; cutlery! So we sat down and made some ourselves first. A bunch of forks for handling the bacon, some spoons for stiring and eating and we're good to go!

Here's where I had a little nasty surprise. In order to bake bacon and eggs you need a fire. I had brought along my canteencup hobostove kind off thing, but could not get a fire going. I tried it all; shavings, dead standing wood, birchbark.... None of it would burn. The harvested birchbark was damp and would curl up into a lump, when lit, thus extinguishing itself. There was no spuceresin to be found (no spruce, just pine) and the used shavings and twigs would just hiss, blow and glow....
I was a bit baffled at first, but kept going and at long last after an hour or so I got my stove going. What went wrong? A couple of things, I guess. I should have started collecting birchbark and laying it out in the more and more appearing sun or put it in my pocket, so it could dry out a little befor using it. Same goes for the woodshavings. I also forgot to split or peel the small twigs befor burning them, thus exposing the drier wood on the inside to the flames. But I think the main problem was the small area available within the stove. It is not possible to properly build up a fire and then have it big and hot enough to dry and ignite the rest. Even during the cooking I had to regularly blow it back into flames, which was made easier by the few coals present.
Biggest thing achieved was a lesson in humility. I had to go through all the beginners steps instead of "just" light a fire.

first bacon with red onions on bread.....

being prepared by my daughter....

then scrambled eggs with onions to fill up any left over openings in the stomage
By now the sun had come out and the temperature started to climb again, rapidly. Even to such a degree that we felt uncomfortable on that exposed cliff. So we packed up, cleaned up and checked up, left our packs for a while and roamed around the clifftop and between the trees. Feeling the breeze, smelling the air, listening to birds and animals. We heard a bunch of magpies and crows being alarmed by something, heard a larger animal move between the brush somewhere beneath us.

seeking the last strip of shade on the clifftop....

no words......

After a while we decided to break camp and move on. So we headed back down between the trees, intending to go  and look at another location.... But within 15 minutes we both knew that that was not going to happen. It had become really warm, the backpack had become uncomfortably heavy for her and she was just getting tired.... That meant heading home....

Our trip together had been wonderfull, but apart from the qualitytime, there was a very special "gift" she left me; butterflies! Whenever she came across one, she'd stop and look at it, amazed, thrilled, even enchanted. I look at them to, but never gave them much thought, other then noticing their colours or presence. She showed me the wonder in these small, delicate and delightfull creatures by forcing me to stop and look at them, really look at them, even to the point of getting on my knees and up close.
It takes the eyes of a child to see the wonders of the world....


Monday, August 5, 2013

Birds, birds, birds.... and other stuff.

Last week we had quite a few spectacles to witness regarding birds.
Last friday we were about to set of on a daytrip, when my oldest daughter called us and showed us a large group of gliding birds she had spotted over our house. More than a dozen or so larger birds circled over our house; most of them were brown, but a few were light, even almost white. They were gliding, not flapping and their size too suggested that these were birds of prey. Everything suggested that they were ormvråk (buteao buteo), but it is way to early for them to build flocks. They're supposed to do that prior to migration in autumn..... I don't understand.... yet.
We also saw massive amounts of what seemed to be kaja (Corvus monedula). They had gathered over a few farms and the flock was huge; a guestimate of several hundred. It was a moving cloud. What made them gather in such numbers? I saw larger groups around farmsites. Of course, there's food, but these numbers? Reminded me of Hitchcock's movie "The birds".
Over our house a large group of ladusvala (Hirundo rustica) gather and their constant chattering always brings a smile to my face. Sitting on the steps in front of the house, sipping coffe I wonder what they are saying to one another.... I watch them use their flyingskills to hunt for the many flying bugs we see between the trees in the setting sun, their bellies regularly flashing as the sun gets reflected and I am amazed at how perfectly created and adapted they are....  ladusvala talk...

There was yet another bird intrigueing me all week. I could hear it all the time, but it kept eluding me.... It was fast, it was low and it was mostly just below the treetops.... untill I got a glimpse of it. It was a bright copperish brown. That and it's call made it perfectly clear what I was dealing with; a juvenile duvhök.... right in our backyard!
Accipiter gentilis mp3 (source;

source; wikipedia

Good for birdspotting, not so good for future chickenholdingplans!
I could not catch it on camera, not even on my "new" one. I had to buy another camera. The old one is failing more and more, so we bought another compact secondhand camera. One evening I actually got onto the roof of the house (well, to be honest I do that more often. Great view and you sit right between the swallows). I heard the bird call again, but didn't see it. The sun was setting and cast an almost magical light between the trees, highlighting the flyingbugs and birds....

The summer continues to be warm and sunny, so what do you do?
Right, you go up onto a very hot attict and drag down a lot of unknown, old and left behind furniture... But is was so worth it! We knew there was an older sofa, some old foldable guestbeds and such, but were we in for a surprise... or two. The first thing we dragged down was the sofa. It was disassembled, so we started reassembling it....
It turned from this......

to this.... 
A 1950's or '60's vintage, perfectly useable 2 person sleepingsofa!

And the old foldable beds......were the same vintage!
And exactly my "cup of tea"!

Wooden frame, steel fittings, jute bottom, cotton matrasses with coconutfibrefilling...

There's a maker's stamp on them too
Bröder Johansson &Co.
Turistsängen Tor

According to an auctionsite (, these beds are from the 1920's or '30's!

After this heartwarming discovery, we put everything back onto the attic, thinking about wht to do with it all. We try to keep our heads cool in one of the lakes. Our son knew how to swim, but he turned out to be not that much of a waterlover. He takes a dip or 2, but that's it. Our youngest daughter has overcome her fear of water and easily "swims" around with us, even when her feet loose contact with the lakebottom. A pair of inflatable armfloaters keep her up, but she's getting the hang of proper swimmingmoves. She no longer swims like a dog.... or cat, as  she calls it.
But the biggest progress comes from our oldest daughter; from a no-swimmer to a 200 meter nonstop swimmer in less then 1 month. And on top of that... she fearlessly jumps off a 3 meter high divingplatform too!

So what does any decent dad do???
Right, go after her....

The fact that I lost 5kg's since I stopped using sugar makes the whole enterprise look more or less decent, too. below all that flabby fluffyness there was actually some muscle hidden too!

And after a cold dip what is better then drying up in the warm sun, while reading......... A snow walker's companion!

Not that there's anything really wrong with me...... Is there?