Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A place of my own - mancave 2.0

I finally have a place in the house I can call "my own". A place where I can sit and tinker, work, think and mess around.
Before the things gathered here were everywhere in the house; a "workbench" with cupboards in the hall, gear and stuff in the cellar and where ever I wanted to work I was either in the way or surrounded by chaos, often both. The same went for my wife and her hobby of wool- and feltworking.
I "claimed" this room for myself before, but it never really was mine anyway. A large freezer took up a lot of room and there was stuff dumped into the room all the time. Anything that needed to be gotten rid of fast, ended up in there and I did this too. We have been rearranging a lot around here lately, starting with my oldest daughter's room and that gave me the worktable and shelves above it. The shelves that are on the right were in store since summer in the shed, but got snowed under by other things. The shed was filled to the brim too and was just chaos as well.
Then we took care of our son's room and that cleared out some room in the shed too, since his desk was stored in there with much other stuff. The carpet is an old, woolen one, but was too damaged to lay in the house. So I took it. No problem, since I liked it anyway.
In the meantime we arranged for the small foodcellar to become storageroom for my wife's hobbymaterials and the large laundrycellar is to become a foodcellar instead. It is by far larger and much cooler than the previous one. To keep it cool we moved the laundrydryer into the cellar hall, so that one's a lot less cold in winter. Another bonus. All in all we were quite busy last week, during which the weather was pretty wild; a lot of wind and rain.
Some other advantages of all this rearranging is that I had to sort out all the things stored in there. Now the family campinggear is stored in the attic and all the things I do not need, use or have to much of are put together and will go on sale soon.
My room will get some of its warmth from the adjacent heaterroom, which will also fill my room with the faint smell of a woodfire. No complaints there either.
It feels good to take care of all the chaos around oneself. A messy head makes a messy living area and v.v.

What it looked like 2 years ago...
(I'll spare you what it looked like since then)
when coming in
to the left

to the right

And what it looks like now...

In the lefthand corner;
Bottom: winterclothes
first shelve: box w. leather and -working tools
Second shelve: toolbox with woodworkingtools
A felt hat, an apron and a strop next to that.
This corner remained largely unchanged.
Boots and shoepolishbox. Yes, I still polish my shoes...
Swiss backpack, kukri machete and axe

A closeup of the shelfcorner; a bit of eyecandy. Traditional and/or natural gear, tools and rawmaterials.
I also found a very old cane, made from a pinebranch! No ideas whose that was. Certainly not the previous house owner's.

One of my scalemodelling shelves. My stash of models on top, then some shelves with modelling- and military related books and binders. Then a shelf with older magazines, through which I like to browse every once in a while.
All my outdoor related books are still up in the livingroom, where they will stay.

And then there's my workingarea. I wonder how long it will look like this.... ;)
All the white boxes either hold a project I work at, are in the planningstage or hold spareparts.
The woven basket on the floor is actually a backpack, waiting to be fixed. Drawers on the right with paints and glues and gathering waste in the middle; paper in the box, plastic in the bag.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Den sista pälsjägaren - The last trapper

Because of some of my pictures concerning the moosehide of the animal I witnessed being shot and its preparation, I got the remark that I reminded someone of a man, called Waldemar Bergstrand, the last trapper.
So I googled this name and came across a video I actually enjoyed. Language is Swedish, but the images are speaking for themselves... Other than that the information is quite limited. Sounds lie an interesting man though. I'll see if I can dig up some more on him...

© Okänd/Jamtli

Waldemar Bergstrand under en filminspelning i Oviksfjällen, 1982 "Den siste pälsjägaren". Han gjorde förutom några TV-inspelningar ett antal videos inom jaktens område. Trappern Waldemar Bergstrand från Berge, född i Hotagen 1901, död 1988. Han blev legendarisk för sina kunskaper inom jaktens område. Under åren 1929-1935 var han en av Hudson Bay Companys främsta pälsjägare i Canada. På bilden är han 82 år gammal och fortfarande mycket aktiv med bl a en rad filminspelningar på gång. Uppgifter: Franz Bergstrand, Stugun, 1991.  Bild nr: 91X55:3


Waldemar Bergstrand during the filming in Oviksfjällen, 1982 "The Last fur hunter." Apart from some tv recording he made a number of videos in the hunting area. Trapper Waldemar Bergstrand from Berge, born in Hotagen 1901, died in 1988. He became legendary for his skills in the hunting area. In the years 1929-1935 he was one of the Hudson Bay Company's primary fur trappers in Canada. In the picture, he is 82 years old and still very active with among others a series of filming going on. Details: Franz Bergstrand, Stugun, 1991

Monday, October 27, 2014

Under the skin... - preparing a moosehide lesson 1

a beautiful hide!
This is the hide from the calf that we shot this year

Ok then, here we go....
Preparing a moosehide with nothing but internetwisdom and a hide or 2.

I have 2 hides to gain experience in the field of braintanning; one relatively fresh one (shot this week, see here) and one that has been dwelling in our freezer since last year (see here),

the hide was infested with deerkeds!!!
Dozens of them crawled around on it...
The mentioned internet wisdom comes from various sources, but I want to do it the old fashioned way.... of course...

More sources;

In Swedish; - garva ditt skinn med fett

IKEA's hjälte 365+

Unfortunately things did not go as planned.... as usual.
First of all I did not get to working with the hide until today... 10 days later. All that time the hide hung up in the tree I put it in, being lashed by wind and rain. Because that was what we had for a good week; high winds and buckets of skywater! So much for accurate weatherforecasting.
The weather turned yesterday, still windy, but dry and a lot warmer. I really hoped the weather and the delay had not ruined the hide, because it looked quite dark. The week before it looked as if someone had poured white paint over it, leaving the paint running down the hide. I guess the tallow has been leeching out??

In the meantime  we had not been idle though, changing a lot of the interior of the house, rearranging furniture basically. All that rearranging meant that I had the means to redo my "mancave", see post here; initial mancave. The results will emerge in this blog soon, as I am quite proud of and satisfied with my own little workingplace.

But before I got to working with the hide, I had to take care of some other smelly business; unplugging the kitchendrain/sewer. After fixing this problem and having had lunch I went outside and got the hide.
Surprise!! The thing was as stiff as a board! And quite smelly...
I had made a makeshift scrapingpole, using a sewagepipe. So I draped the hide over the pipe, grabbed the 2-handed scraper I got for my last birthday, jammed the hide between the pipe-end and a board across my chest (a tip I got on BCUK) and made my first attempt.
But that did not work out. The hide just kept slipping off, no matter how I positioned it. So I went for plan B; a sturdy log + makeshift A-frame beneath it for support. I could not scrape the hide either. It was way to stiff and dry. So I dragged out an old bathtub, dumped the hide into it and started filling it with water. The air above and around the tub was soon stiff with a pungent smell and loads of flying critters! Even after 10 days I could still see plenty of deerkeds clinging onto the hair and there was an equal amount of flies present too, in all sort and shapes. I still feel creepy-crawly as I am writing this...
As I was filling the tub I saw the hide become supple again and the water took on a hue of dried blood. Well, at leas a lot of mess got rinsed out of the hide. I left the hide to soak for about an hour, before placing it over the new scrapingpole. By now I had put on an old raincoat to avoid becoming soaking wet and a pair of household gloves. The water did not look to appealing and, having several cuts and scrapes on my hands, I did not want to find out what the pathogens in that water could do to me via those breaches in my defensive barrier. Also the thought of just grabbing that less than appetizingly looking hide with my bare hands made me cringe.
So I hung the board around my neck once more and leaned into it! And immediately my nose curled... The air was difficult to breath. It felt sour, green and rancid... I can still smell and even taste it! The hide had soften up, but the meat and other leftovers were still tough as leather. So, with diminishing daylight, I hung the hide back up in the tree and will give it another, longer soak tomorrow, before trying to scrap the hide again.

Now, to elaborate some of the things I did, which might be unclear; the chestboard.
This is simply a thing piece of wood, which I hung around my neck with a cord. The board reached across my chest and down to my stomach. The point of this is to jam the hide between the chestboard and the scrapingpole to order to fix the hide in place and immobilize it, while scraping it.
The doublehanded scraper; a birthdaygift and bought at
2 plasic handles, blade is 12".
from the IKEA webpage
More info (in Swedish) here.
Another tool is the IKEA Hjälte 365+ stekspade or frying spatula. I stumbled across the idea at the Bomärkt blog , while searching for singlehand scrapers.
I simply bought one and will give it a try as well.

And to keep the subject with moose.... We received about 1,5kg of frozen moosemeat. It had been sitting in Ingrid and Esbjörns freezer since 2010. I was a bit sceptical about it, but it turned out very good! Apart from some small patches with frostbite the meat was very palatable still.
My wife made a stew out of it, together with chanterelles and chestnutmushrooms, carrots, celeriac and onions and we enjoyed the results of her efforts for 2 days. Find the recipe here, but it is in Swedish.
It really was delicious and the meat was quite tender and tasty!

Friday, October 17, 2014

A hunting we will go.... A hunting we will go.....

Yep, it's moosehuntingseason!
That was made pretty clear by the sounds on the shootingrange here, across the lake. Some folks were trying to get their skills up to par and it sounded like some serious firework going off all day!
But the huntingseason for me started on mondaymorning (13th), which was the official start, with hunting birds with my binoculars.
Dozens and dozens had gathered in the trees around our house; koltrast, björktrast, bofink, calling chattering and our "local" blåmes and talgoxe added to the cacophony. Some of the birds were quarreling with one another, while others were seeing off the local bullies; crows. It was like standing in a huge aviary... And while I was standing there, looking at them I saw in my corner of my eye a fast moving shadow coming in. A grey dart dashed between the gathered birds and all of a sudden the skies were empty and the calls became shrieks.

Hunting started in earnest for me on thursdag october 16th. Esbjörn had invited me to join him and his huntingleague in this year's moosehunt. He had explained the basics to me; silent clothes meaning no noise and no flashy colours. We'd be spending the day on location, meaning stationary and we'd start early 06:30.
So thursday morning I was ready. Wrapped myself in my beloved woolies for the first time this season, packed a backpack with foldable tripod seat, food&coffee, poncho, first-aid kit. Binos in one pocket of my huntingcoat, a pair of knitted gloves and a dito turtleneck in the other. Jeepcap on my nogging, knife within reach. I met the whole huntingleague at the greenhouse and introduced myself to each of them in person. Scored good notes with that I learned afterwards. A little later we set out and everyone made for his post.
As we came up to ours, we had to pass another post on foot and as we did I already spotted 3 moose in the distance; a big one and 2 smaller ones! Right in front of the location we were supposed to be at!! Looked promising And I caught myself thinking ;"One of you will be dead very soon." We moved up and as we did the top of a low hill moved in between us and the moose-trio. When we reached our post I could make them out just over the top. Esbjörn set up his stool/backpack and made his rifle ready. I did not get that chance.... The moose seemed alerted by something of to our left. Heads and ears held high.... Then they started to move; slowly at first, but soon speeding up to a trot and they headed our way. And out of nowhere 2 more adult moose showed up right in front of us!
And then 2 more!! Distance less than 75 meters! They ran from our left to our right, suddenly wheeling towards us and then wheeling back to their left, after they spotted us. These 4 passed, followed by the cow and calves. Esbjörn kept his calm and sitting on his stool he took aim and a loud bang tore through the starting day..... I saw what seemed to be the impact of the bullet in the last calf as it made a little jump as if hit by something. yet it ran on, but only about 10 meters or so. Than it started to slow down, started swaying too. It went down, but tried to get up....once. It fell to the ground and never got up again.

At 07:30 we were busy fielddressing the first kill of the day,,,,,

... Of which I will spare you the visual presentation, which I did not get since I hand my hands full....
As we approached the animal the first thing I noticed was the size of the calf. It was big!! Turned out to be a young bull. The shot was a good one, ensuring a clean kill. Went through both the lungs. Looking at it I felt a pang of sadness go through me. It was a fine looking animal. Beautiful fur. Strong too and it might have become a beautiful bull...
Here I made a mistake, not the first one this day, but I will elaborate on that later. I had my knitted gloves on, since the temperatures were just above freezing and the grass was wet. We had to move the calf in order to fielddress it, meaning taking out the intestines and blood and I handled the calf with my gloves still on... and so they got soaking wet, both with blood, but also with the water that was in the fur around the ankles.... Dumb, dumb, dumb.....
I took them off and after I held apart the legs, he cut open the belly of the animal. It felt strange handling the dead, yet still warm animal. The skin was cut and the intestines came bulging out, neatly packed in a strong membrane. That I had not expected! A lot less messy than I anticipated! But hang on... I was quickly being served my portion of messy-ness! One of the stomachs got caught behind a sharp edge of the chestbone, tore open and spilled the peasoup-like contents.... The smell!! And I was hanging over it less than half a meter away. It came steaming up into my face and I felt my stomache protest....
Esbjörn was having his share of messy-ness too. Apart from the torn stomache, he was faced with 2 lungs torn to pieces. One bloody mess in there. As I held open the abdomen he cleaned it up as good as possible and we then turned the animal on it's belly to let the blood run out. As we rolled it over, it made loud squelching sounds.... Esbjörn then asked me if I had an axe with me. Not knowing why he'd need it, I fetched my little forest axe and his foldingsaw. Turns out he need a stick or 2 to keep open the abdomen, so that the carcass could cool down fast.  We rolled the animal back to it's side and propped the abdomen open with 2 sticks, leaving the pile of intestines next to it.
After this lightningstart the rest of the day mostly passed on pretty quiet with a confirmed kill, after a search, of a mature bull coming in over the radio at around 10. By now mistake nr.2 was making itself very well felt. I had put on my old leather army boots and despite the liberal application of shoe polish (unfortunately not the good old one in tins, but the fast and easy version in a tube) and vigorous polishing the night before, the leather got soaking wet. I was left sitting and standing there with wet boots in near freezing temperatures all day.... Luckily I was wearing thick wool socks otherwise my feet would have fallen off. I did feel like walking on iceblocks instead of feet, though. And I noticed that after a few hours you get used to the painful numbness in the area where your feet are supposed to be.
I said mostly, because just before noon we got word from another post behind us that there was movement again and as we turned around I saw an animal move over a ridge to our far right, coming toward us. I warned Esbjörn and as he was preparing a young cow emerged from the treeline, spotted us and dashed off immediately again. We could hear her thumping and crashing away to our left, straight for the posts we passed in the morning. Very soon after that we heard 3 shots echoing through the valley and we waited for the confirmed kill over the radio..... which did not come. Further inquiry made it clear that one of the guys fired 3 shots and saw the cow tumble down, roll over and straggling off afterwards. So another search was in order and that took the rest of the day. With nothing to do we remained in position just in case the cow would wheel around, away from the dog-led searchparty. The only result from that was that I saw 2 pine martens rummaging around in a pinetree right behind me, we saw plenty of crows and deer and a handful of woodpeckers.
Just after 17:15 we got word to call it a day and we packed our gear, headed toward the carcass to load that up onto a trailer and drive to the location, where the moose got slaughtered. I noticed that the intestines had become bloated like a large balloon.
I asked if I could have the hide and brain of the calf and explained what I intended to do with them. I caught some strange looks. One of our neighbours was helping with the slaughtering and learned of my intentions. I looked him in the eye and said to him;" You better be careful. You have got some very strange neighbours, you know." I do not know if he got my sense of humor... I did witness the skinning of "our" calf and learned a few things about skinning too!
Appearantly my presence was being appreciated, because I was asked if I wanted to join the next day as well!
At first I was hesitant, feeling my feet, remembering the boredom and knowing I had things planned, but my wife thought she could handle those by herself and I accepted.

We left for home at about 18:30, carrying a heavy load; the skin, the head and 2 paws of "our" calf...

And today, friday 17th, was the last "day" for me.
I was present at 06:30, but we started off a lot later than yesterday. We sat in the car by the day we were field dressing the moose the previous day. The guys seemed a lot less eager... It was about the same weather as the day before, but with much more humidity in the air. It felt more chilling. We headed for the same place again and we arrived under daylight. There was nothing to be seen and that was to remain for the rest of the "day". This day ended when we received a call just before noon, saying the hunt had been cut short. No reason was given, but I suspect the unsatisfactory appearance of moose was the main cause. None were seen at all....
While we sat there, mainly in silence, I looked at some roe deer. Even their presence was less than before. I also payed more attention to the birds, specifically the ravens I and listened to their calls. We also saw some migrating geese. The last stragglers I guess. One group consisted of Canadian geese, the other I could not determine. They were quiet and flew in a tight v-formation.
The highlight of the day was the presence of a nice, healthy looking fox with a beautiful bushy tail, who greeted us upon our arrival. Today'slows were a stonecold rainshower and a tick I found crawling on my upper leg. I thought these critters were not active under 5C??

much of my view all day.....
In hindsight I feel that this type of hunting really is not for me. Sitting in one spot, waiting for the lucky opportunity for the right type of moose to come within range under the right angle under the right circumstances..... Nah, too much of a chance event for me. The fact that you are completely stationary, while being exposed to the elements all day long doesn't do it for me either. I am however very grateful that I was given the chance to experience it and that I have gotten a bit more experience and some raw materials to work with!
On the other hand I can see myself hunting, absolutely. I know I have the feeling for it. Spotting wildlife before others do showed that. Having interest in and understanding of the animal in question enhances my chances greatly. I know I will pull the trigger on a prey. No doubts there. And these past 2 days I handled a rifle several times and it felt strangely familiar and comfortable in my hands.
The one thing I do drag my feet a little at, is the slaughtering process, but I guess that'll pass with knowledge and hands on experience.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

For the love of the land.......

Once more the harvest season is coming to an end.

The grain has already gone and for us harvesting potatoes the end is in sight as well. The last few acres will be collected next week and then that's done. Our own harvesting has been very modest this year. Next to no berries were to be picked and the apples too were quite small. It has been way to dry and hot for them, I guess. We do have a good handfull of wild rosehips (rosa canina), though and we might get some of the rosa rugosa as well. That would make a serious vitamin C-addition to the morning yoghurt coming winter.

We have been enjoying a wonderfull autumn so far with very good weather, unseasonably high temperatures, but with cold nights and thick morningfogs. We already have had some nights with frost and that leads to great displays of colour. I have the privilege of seeing that each day for prolonged periods of time when working and having some hot coffee and a snack during the (cold morning) breaks only increases the feeling of joy and a deeper sense of happiness! The fact of actually doing this physical work gives a sense of purpose which probably only adds to that and when you get to look at the many small surprises the Great Mother presents one with.....
Some of the more noteworthy I'll try to describe, since having a camera with me was no option....except for the crappy one on my cellphone and by the quality of those pictures you might guess its age.

This I actually did take....

One of the more notable ones was the visit of a buzzard, when harvesting certain fields. It would sit in the trees next to the field and sometimes, when a row had been taken and the soil was upturned, it would land there and walk around, looking for edible morsels. I saw it take of with something looking like a big worm! Never saw a buzzard behaving like that before! And it did that multiple times. It did not seem too worried or scared of that big, noisy, bright red and yellow humanthing, rumbling through the fields.
Neither did a couple of deer, who were feeding right next to us, as we rumbled by. They remained in place, about 15 meters away from us, looking at us when we came by and continuing feeding when we had passed. I could have a good look at the brownish grey and the bright copperbrown one several times! I even did get to see a honeybee a week ago! Buzzing around the harvester, its hind legs heavy with pollen. Many beekeepers, including myself if I can even call myself that, have already made the bees winter ready and yet here still was one, still hard at work. It gives me good hope that my swarm will have sufficient stores to get through the winter and live to see next year's spring. Hopefully as a strong colony, so I can increase the numbers of colonies.
On a particular foggy morning, when I thought I saw clouds drift across the surface, I witnessed the sun all of a sudden break through an opening in the gradually thinning fog and the mist evaporated within 30 minutes, exposing the still damp soil to the sun's rays, leaving it steaming. I just saw the very source of the fog, how it came to be and the sun's rays, striking the wafts of vapour from behind created an almost magical, fairytale-like atmosphere.
Yesterday that feat was recreated in another field, but this time with the backdrop of a dark treeline, giving it a more dark, ominous atmosphere.

My wife and I are also seeing many moose, especially last week, when she takes me to work early in the morning, just before sunrise. On one day we saw a young cow trotting across the road and on another day 2 adult moose without antlers, walking around in the fields, partially hidden by groundfogs, occassionally stopping to look at us as we looked at them. On 2 mornings we saw a
moose cow with 2 calves and on yet another day, when I was alone, I came across a young bull out in the open, close to the road and some houses with nothing but open fields for hundreds of meters around him. With behaviour like that I do not expect him to become too old. Not with the moosehuntingseason closing in. Which will bring another post to this blog soon, because I have been invited to join that hunt as an onlooker and that was approved by the head of the local huntersleague.
Yep, I am going to witness a moosehunt! And to say I am excited is putting it mildly!

The potatoharvest did not just provide me with a way to keep busy, be productive, create some extra income, supply me with loads of fresh air and the sight of scenery and wildlife next to tons and tons of potatoes.
It gave me some tangible samples of years gone by. On several occasions the harvester coughed up more than potatoes, stones and plants or their remains. Sometimes some machineparts or junk, lost during previous years, but also some quite old reminders of the ways these lands have been used by previous generations; horseshoes!
It brought to me the image of farmers, walking behind their horses as the plodded across the fields, plowing, sowing or harvesting. A far cry from today's methods, although the basics remain the same. And maybe I am a hopeless romantic, but I feel that the land was treated with more respect and love back then than it is today. I also do think that the connection of many a farmer to his lands was much more close and intimate, despite the hard, backbreaking work it took to have food on the table.
And for some reason I do believe that the methods used in those days were much less harmful to these lands and more in harmony with their surroundings then they are today.
It also reminded me of a film we received as a gift, right after we moved here. A film about our village and the old farming ways. I must have a look at it again, now that we actually can understand what the narrator is saying, even though the images speak for themselves.
The following clip is the only one I could find online;

And speaking of films; we had a filmingcrew visiting us, while harvesting and they shot a film about a manifestation, called "matspanarna" or food scouts. This is a cooperation between several groundschools/kindergardens, local farmers and the local authorities to show and teach kids where food is actually coming from, learning about the process from soil to plate. A much needed lesson indeed! The children are taken to a farm and, apart from some lectures, get to get some experiences hands on themselves.
The following clip is from the participating broadcastingstation, showing some interviews, including my employer and a bit on potatoeharvesting, including a 1949 vintage tractor, an old potatoharvester and a new one, which unfortunately for you, shows the author of this blog in the blink of an eye...