Tuesday, January 27, 2015

And another day for the books!

Be warned. I'm going to bore you to death with winterpictures....
My wife made the first batch...


our neighbour's horses

We reached 2 milestones today, but before I tell you about them, let me tell you about the glory of living a rural life in winter conditions; shoveling snow and carrying wood. Well, there's actually not much to tell, only that we received a decent amount of inches of new snow, turning the world into one gigantic whipped cream topped adventure. Because that's how it looked.
Everything covered in a thick layer of it..... or icing... which ever you prefer. I go for whipped cream, thick and fluffy. And that thick and fluffy layer had to be removed from certain places; paths, stairs and parking area. When I started it was nice and cold and crisp and the snow was the same, but soon the sun came out and that turned the snow into thick, sticky substance... Heavy too, if you have to shovel it by hand. Especially if it sticks to the shovel... In no time I had to get rid of the scarf, the hat and the gloves, only keeping a pair of thin working gloves. Cold + metal + skin = a bad match.
After an hour or 2 all the necessary areas were accessible again and during the following teabreak my wife and I decided to have a little gamble; letting Rex play outside without a leash... loose... We did take one, just to be sure, took on of his tennisballs (he's nuts about them) and went to play with him in the thick snow. He was exhilarated!  He ran and he dived, fetched the ball and buried it, ran some more, until the ball was one lump of ice.... We tried a stick afterwards and he went equally nuts. He even obeys our commands..... sort of... And we had a few good laughs. Even now I was warm. Turned out temperatures in the sun reached a whopping 8C+!
After that it was time to walk the dog some more, while my wife was off to the bank for an appointment, which might just yield a bit more breathing space... hopefully. Nothing to eventful on my account, besides a handful of pretty pictures. Don't say I didn't warn you...

There's something funny with this one....
Check the shadows...

The surface of the lake worked like a coldtrap.
The warmer air fell onto it, causing a slight fog. That fog is much, much thicker now!

I am sure that many who read this blog dream about a place like this!
And there are many around here, some of which are used 2-3 weeks a year...
And some even less than that....
My wife's appointment took longer than anticipated and  we had promised to deliver a large sack of reindeer feed to someone in the village. Because it was getting late, I hitched up Rex to the pulka (sled), put the bag of feed on it (20kg) and let him use his excess energy to make a special delivery. After a awkward start things went well and we had just left, when my wife came down the path with our daughters. Annalena jumped out of the car and came along with me. On the way to the delivery Rex made some mistakes, turned to soon or simply lost focus and followed his nose. He also wanted to go fast.... tipping over the sled 3 times. The last time I got pissed off, because he just couldn't control himself. After that, things went smooth like clockwork!
He really got the hang of it, followed commands and discovered the joy of work! And he really did enjoy it! We delivered the sack, talked a little with the recipients, who didn't even blink an eye with our appearance, and we then went home again. Rex still had plenty of power left, so now Annalena rode the sled and he pulled it without much effort. He even ran (so did I!)! From a standstill! And Annalena? Well.... listen to the clip...

Monday, January 26, 2015

Living with the seasons

Today was one of the rare occasions that I took the car and went out. I am not much of a car driver, not hopeless but not good either. I do not really feel at ease behind the steering wheel. Never can relax completely, because it doesn't come naturally to me.... I even don't like cars in general. Nothing but a metalbox that transports me from A to B relatively quickly and in comfort. A Ferrari or a Dacia... all the same to me, except the first one is ridiculously overprised and utterly useless... But I digress...

Driving through the forest on my way to the "big city" I couldn't help but thinking about winter, the cold and snow and how it affects people in western society. Looking at the continuously falling snow  I thought about the comments we get from our contacts back in Holland and couldn't help but grin. Many of them hate it, despise it, wish it was summer all year round. Dutch official life grinds to a halt if only a few centimeters of the white stuff are on the ground. Social services collapse in the event of snow; trains and busses come to a stand still, highways become unusable and people are hesitant to leave the house, because "it is cold, slippery and dangerous out there!" And here I was, doing 50-60km an hour through a few inches of snow! The thought of doing that in that little country by the north sea made me laugh out loud. One sure learns to live with the seasons fast if one has too!
OK, I admit.... there is very little traffic here... apart from a large tractor plowing snow and 4 large trucks transporting the logs I showed in the previous post... Exciting when one meets one of those of these roads... And yes, there are less pedestrians out here.... But we got moose, fox, deer, grouse etc! Not that I did see any though.
But these are only everywinterday, practical issues. How about the human body and mind? What would the absence of winter do to us mentally and physically? After all we only evolved over tens of thousands of years, including a handfull of nippy days, to what we have become now. (If you want to call it evolved, but that's an entirely different discussion). People adapt to their circumstances quickly. Looking at myself, since I live here I have come to see the concept of cold on a different scale then what I was used to in Holland. There -10C meant almost dying of cold and utter misery, here it barely means a thing, except a fresh breath of air.
The human as a whole needs the seasons and their change to thrive. We need to feel the frantic fluttering in spring, the maturing in summer, the ageing in autumn and the dying in winter in order to start all over again.
We need that fresh surge of energy to kickstart our mind and body again, we need to slow down and finish what we started, we need to reap the fruits of our efforts and we need to come to a stop and rest...
This simple, everyday drive to the library made me think about that. It being a longer than 30 minute, solo, without radio-drive gave my mind a bit of room to wonder.

Which brings me to the next subject of this post; books!
I have been reading quite a lot lately and it was time for a resupply, so..... The pile of books I got today was about half regarding the subjects I address here and half the subjects I address on my other blog, which has very little to do with what I do here. It's all about plastics, resins, paints, glues and war... Remnants of a previous life..
Other subjects are mainly wolvers and dogs.
The lady in the library I talked to, while she was helping me, told me that there is a strong growth in the loaning out of books on self sufficiency, permaculture, growing own's own food etc. She said books on these subjects are growing increasingly popular and on a good number of them there are waiting lists, resulting in shorter loanperiods.

Apparently something is going on here. And that is good news. Sounds like people are waking up more and more... And the more wake up, the more things will inevitably change. And there'äs another good thing about it. When that change comes and becomes all enveloping it just might not be that horrendous, catastrophic collapse everyone thinks it will be. Maybe, just maybe.... if the numbers of changers has frown significantly large by that time, there will be a less violent and sudden shift, although I still think that the final downfall will occur in flames and suffering. This system will not roll over and play dead. This dragon has to be slaughtered and many a brave knight will fall in battle. Yet history shows that it is often the numbers of humble footsoldiers that bring about victory and not the knight in shining armour. His main purpose is to lead and draw fire....

About some of the books themselves; I got me a copy of the old self sufficiency book by John Seymour and a new version. Seymour seems to be something like the godfather of self sufficiency so I needed to know more about him and the books. At first glance they appear to be quite different from one another.
Trägården Jorden or Garden Earth by Gunnar Rundgren is in a league of its own and will as such get a separate post. A very significant book I'd say.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A noteworthy day....

*Attention! This post contains images that some might find shocking. distasteful or otherwise inappropriate. If you are squeamish, I strongly suggest you leave... NOW!"
exict sarcasm-mode...

Ahh, it surely was, because we got bathed in sunlight! And the temperatures were not bad either, just above freezing in the sun and below out of it. No wind..... Wonderfull!
That means that the hours around midday our livingroom gets maximum sunlight, so I took advantage of that and started to tank up on those sorely missed D vitamins, while I waited for someone to come and pick up the disabled Mitsubishi from our parkingarea, along with 2 dishevelled children's bicycles, the old lawnmower and a metal bathtub. He never showed up or was heard of. I hate it, when people do that.... but I caught a good deal of rays!

You have been warned!!!
The shadow is a candle standing on the table...
and you can see the effects of eating grain again... damn.

But the day started out well before that.
While we were doing dishes my wife caught a movement between the trees in our backyard. It was a bird. The same colour as a thrush, but bigger.... and thrushes will not be here for another 2-3 months. She mentioned it to me and as we stood there looking out there came a bird, wafting through the trees, ever closer and I recognised the shape..... It came right up to within 2 meters of the window and as it turned, it turned its underside towards us, which caught the sunlight and we saw the sandy/black mottled underside of a peregrine falcon! Must have been a young one, since it was not completely white yet...
I am always thrilled by a sight like that.
Now this is what winter should be like!
25-30cm of snow, clear skies, frost and sunshine!

The 2 tracks visible are the hares we scared.
something didn't make it...
After lunch I took Rex for a walk and that become a longer and tougher one then usually. With no fixed route in mind we roamed about, using little to no road or paths, so the going was quite tough at times with loose snow up to and over kneedeep. We scared off 2 hares. 2 fat ones, too and as the ran off, zigzagging across the field I looked at them, enjoying their grace.... and thinking that they'd make a good dinner, wondering what they'd taste like and how much meat they'd give. Is hare skin good/usable for something?

To me this is as Swedish as it can possibly get!!
We wondered on and on and came across a place where wood had been stacked. We knew folks had been cutting wood nearby. We heard the machines and we saw the cuttings and the mess they made. We also saw the woodpile from the distance, but today I checked them out up close.
It was a large amount of wood. Piles up to 6 meters high and 20-30 meters long.... on both sides of a path. That had to be a large area
they came from and as we walked on we saw that area..... And I was right... Yet the area was not completely clear cut. There were still trees standing among the large heaps of debris, branches and leftover wood. If this is left here in spring I will go ask the owner of the land if I can take the stems.

We moved on, crossing the cut area and entering another, previously cut area. Here the underlaying brush made the snow even deeper, at points reaching halfway up my thighs. I would've loved to have my snowshoes with me! Rex just happily plowed on, hopping from left to right, sniffing here, digging in there... We did not take a single, known (to him) road or path and he clearly enjoyed it! The "road" home took us straight across the lake and he ran "free" on his long leash, racing and jumping, challenging me to "fight" him. We spent our remaining energy out in the open, before heading home again.

It is surely noteworthy how one day of sunshine re-energises a human. Talked to one of the "neighbours" out on the ice and he said the exact same thing. You feel so much more alive and energetic, much more willful to go out and do something....

Friday, January 23, 2015

Gang wars!

Our neighbourhood has seen a significant change these days. Several gangs have moved in and are making their presence seen and felt!
Gangs of grönfink/greenfinches, domherre/bullfinches, blåmes/blue tit and talgoxe/great tit, gulsparv/yellowhammers and skata/magpie are "fighting" one another at the local feeders. The green finches have claimed the hanging feeder as their "territory", the tits the greaseballs, the yellowhammers and bullfinches are the groundtroops and the magpies... Well, they do what they do best; bicker and fight, chase away the rest, destroy the place and run for cover as soon as even the slightest form of non animal movement is seen.
It is a great joy to see all these different gangs in action. As soon as we have filled the table, the first ones to rush in are the blue tits, closely followed by the great tits. If neither of them gets into trouble, the green finches and the yellowhammers are next on the scene, with the bullfinches as a very cautious last. The magpies wreck the place in the morning or if no other groups of birds are feeding. Strangely enough..... Single birds are bullied and driven of, though!
In between a single nötväcka/nuthatch makes a dash for the feeder, throwing all the seeds on the ground and taking only the sunflowerseeds. After that the green finches take over once more and continue their feeding and squabbling, thereby also dropping many a seed.
The tits have the seedfilled greaseball all to themselves. The rest can not handle those, but while feeding they too drop a good deal of morsels. The yellowhammers and bullfinches do all the cleaning up.
We also get to see "our" couple of woodpeckers almost daily; mr. & mrs Hackspett.
Another group that is roaming the area is a group of sidensvans/Bohemian waxwing. A marvelous bird. Larger than the rest, very colourful with distinct markings and tyft of the head and they keep very much to themselves, paying little attention to the other birds and non what's however to the food we lay out. They stick to the pinetree and its seedcones.

Yesterday, the first sun we saw since my birthday.
Well, we did see a deal more today...
And some of my wishes did come true! Winter did return!
Snow slowly wafting down from the heavens (sometimes accompanied by a biting eastern wind, which spat the flakes right into the skin of your face, no matter how you dressed...) and temperatures have dropped again.
Ohhh the joy!! I just love that sting of freezing in my face, my nostrils, my lungs.. It revives and refreshes.... Freshly fallen, fine, powdery snow... on a surface of ice....
I never knew I could dance like that!
But...... that also makes for some good tracking! There seems to be a single fox going around here. Many footprints, some very fresh, but we haven't heard him/her calling all winter. Yet I am quite sure it has its lair quite nearby, maybe even just across the street, since Rex is very, very interested in that area!
The thick layer of snow also drives roedeer out onto the fields, like this morning, when at first we saw a smaller hare hopping over the road, but when it spotted us, it turned and double quicked away. Rex would have gone in pursuit, if I hadn't had him on a leash with both heels dug into the snow.... for however little footing that might have yielded. After the kids got on the bus, 4-legs and 2-legs moved on, both pulling in opposite directions (he leaning into the leash and I slowing him down), only to come across 4 deer, standing in a field, 20 meters from the road, in the darkness with a large group of boulders and trees behind them. Had they remained motionless I guess there wouldn't have been a problem..... But they didn't...... And Rex went ballistic! He went so mad, that he hopped around on his hindlegs, keeping the leash taught, spinning in circles with me in the middle, spinning on my again dug in heels. In the end I had to physically pin him down on the ground to get him to calm down! The deer were gone, I was less then friendly and he.... still had trouble keeping his energy in check. And after a tense-300-meter-walk, there was another field...... And yes.... It contained life! I could see and even feel the immense tension within the dog, trying so hard to contain himself, yet failing more and more.... I felt sorry for him, but he also has to learn to control himself.
Later today we went for a long walk with him and this time my wife was holding him. And he showed the same overenthusiastic, hyperenergetic behaviour. He has all day, actually. No idea what's wrong.... He even annoyed the hell out of the cats....
Anyway... we reached the same spot as in the morning and I went to check the tracks. Indeed. 4 roedeer. And as I raised my head, I spotted movement a little further ahead... Our neighbourhood has one more gang roaming about; a buck and 4 does. Fine looking animals (at a distance); strong, healthy and proudlooking. I shoo'ed them away, because they showed little sign of fear and I did not want to get to close with Rex, anticipating his response to them.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Mutiny of the soul

Now, the following article by Charles Eisenstein (you should really read what he has to say. Makes a lot of sense!) has little to do with the wonderfull outdoors, self sufficiency or and related subject..... Or has it??
I think it does! Because it is about the very core of us, our civilisation and the world we live in. Us!
Anyway, I read it and it struck such a powerful chord deep within me, that I had to wipe my eyes at certain passages. Such a feeling of recognition and a deep sense that I was meant to see this article, right now, right here..... as a personal message to me.... That's really how it felt..
But maybe not just to me. Maybe to others out there as well....

Source; http://charleseisenstein.net/mutiny/
Depression, anxiety, and fatigue are an essential part of a process of metamorphosis that is unfolding on the planet today, and highly significant for the light they shed on the transition from an old world to a new.
When a growing fatigue or depression becomes serious, and we get a diagnosis of Epstein-Barr or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or hypothyroid or low serotonin, we typically feel relief and alarm. Alarm: something is wrong with me. Relief: at least I know I’m not imagining things; now that I have a diagnosis, I can be cured, and life can go back to normal. But of course, a cure for these conditions is elusive.
The notion of a cure starts with the question, “What has gone wrong?” But there is another, radically different way of seeing fatigue and depression that starts by asking, “What is the body, in its perfect wisdom, responding to?” When would it be the wisest choice for someone to be unable to summon the energy to fully participate in life?
The answer is staring us in the face. When our soul-body is saying No to life, through fatigue or depression, the first thing to ask is, “Is life as I am living it the right life for me right now?” When the soul-body is saying No to participation in the world, the first thing to ask is, “Does the world as it is presented me merit my full participation?”
What if there is something so fundamentally wrong with the world, the lives, and the way of being offered us, that withdrawal is the only sane response? Withdrawal, followed by a reentry into a world, a life, and a way of being wholly different from the one left behind?
The unspoken goal of modern life seems to be to live as long and as comfortably as possible, to minimize risk and to maximize security. We see this priority in the educational system, which tries to train us to be “competitive” so that we can “make a living”. We see it in the medical system, where the goal of prolonging life trumps any consideration of whether, sometimes, the time has come to die. We see it in our economic system, which assumes that all people are motivated by “rational self-interest”, defined in terms of money, associated with security and survival. (And have you ever thought about the phrase “the cost of living”?) We are supposed to be practical, not idealistic; we are supposed to put work before play. Ask someone why she stays in a job she hates, and as often as not the answer is, “For the health insurance.” In other words, we stay in jobs that leave us feeling dead in order to gain the assurance of staying alive. When we choose health insurance over passion, we are choosing survival over life.
On a deep level, which I call the soul level, we want none of that. We recognize that we are here on earth to enact a sacred purpose, and that most of the jobs on offer are beneath our dignity as human beings. But we might be too afraid to leave our jobs, our planned-out lives, our health insurance, or whatever other security and comfort we have received in exchange for our divine gifts. Deep down, we recognize this security and comfort as slaves’ wages, and we yearn to be free.
So, the soul rebels. Afraid to make the conscious choice to step away from a slave’s life, we make the choice unconsciously instead. We can no longer muster the energy to go through the motions. We enact this withdrawal from life through a variety of means. We might summon the Epstein-Barr virus into our bodies, or mononucleosis, or some other vector of chronic fatigue. We might shut down our thyroid or adrenal glands. We might shut down our production of serotonin in the brain. Other people take a different route, incinerating the excess life energy in the fires of addiction. Either way, we are in some way refusing to participate. We are shying away from ignoble complicity in a world gone wrong. We are refusing to contribute our divine gifts to the aggrandizement of that world.
That is why the conventional approach of fixing the problem so that we can return to normal life will not work. It might work temporarily, but the body will find other ways to resist. Raise serotonin levels with SSRIs, and the brain will prune some receptor sites, thinking in its wisdom, “Hey, I’m not supposed to feel good about the life I am living right now.” In the end, there is always suicide, a common endpoint of the pharmaceutical regimes that seek to make us happy with something inimical to our very purpose and being. You can only force yourself to abide in wrongness so long. When the soul’s rebellion is suppressed too long, it can explode outward in bloody revolution. Significantly, all of the school shootings in the last decade have involved people on anti-depression medication. All of them! For a jaw-dropping glimpse of the results of the pharmaceutical regime of control, scroll down this compilation of suicide/homicide cases involving SSRIs. I am not using “jaw-dropping” as a figure of speech. My jaw literally dropped open.
Back in the 1970s, dissidents in the Soviet Union were often hospitalized in mental institutions and given drugs similar to the ones used to treat depression today. The reasoning was that you had to be insane to be unhappy in the Socialist Workers’ Utopia. When the people treating depression receive status and prestige from the very system that their patients are unhappy with, they are unlikely to affirm the basic validity of the patient’s withdrawal from life. “The system has to be sound — after all, it validates my professional status — therefore the problem must be with you.”
Unfortunately, “holistic” approaches are no different, as long as they deny the wisdom of the body’s rebellion. When they do seem to work, usually that is because they coincide with some other shift. When someone goes out and gets help, or makes a radical switch of modalities, it works as a ritual communication to the unconscious mind of a genuine life change. Rituals have the power to make conscious decisions real to the unconscious. They can be part of taking back one’s power.
I have met countless people of great compassion and sensitivity, people who would describe themselves as “conscious” or “spiritual”, who have battled with CFS, depression, thyroid deficiency, and so on. These are people who have come to a transition point in their lives where they become physically incapable of living the old life in the old world. That is because, in fact, the world presented to us as normal and acceptable is anything but. It is a monstrosity. Ours is a planet in pain. If you need me to convince you of that, if you are unaware of the destruction of forests, oceans, wetlands, cultures, soil, health, beauty, dignity, and spirit that underlies the System we live in, then I have nothing to say to you. I only am speaking to you if you do believe that there is something deeply wrong with the way we are living on this planet.
A related syndrome comprises various “attention deficit” and anxiety “disorders” (forgive me, I cannot write down these words without the ironic quotation marks) which reflect an unconscious knowledge that something is wrong around here. Anxiety, like all emotions, has a proper function. Suppose you left a pot on the stove and you know you forgot something, you just can’t remember what. You cannot rest at ease. Something is bothering you, something is wrong. Subliminally you smell smoke. You obsess: did I leave the water running? Did I forget to pay the mortgage? The anxiety keeps you awake and alert; it doesn’t let you rest; it keeps your mind churning, worrying. This is good. This is what saves your life. Eventually you realize — the house is on fire! — and anxiety turns into panic, and action.
So if you suffer from anxiety, maybe you don’t have a “disorder” at all — maybe the house is on fire. Anxiety is simply the emotion corresponding to “Something is dangerously wrong and I don’t know what it is.” That is only a disorder if there is in fact nothing dangerously wrong. “Nothing is wrong, just you” is the message that any therapy gives when it tries to fix you. I disagree with that message. The problem is not with you. You have very good reason to be anxious. Anxiety keeps part of your attention away from your tasks of polishing the silverware as the house burns down, of playing the violin as the Titanic sinks. Unfortunately, the wrongness you are tapping into might be beyond the cognizance of the psychiatrists who treat you, who then conclude that the problem must be your brain.

Similarly, Attention Deficit Disorder, ADHD, and my favorite, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) are only disorders if we believe that the things presented for our attention are worth paying attention to. We cannot admit, without calling into question the whole edifice of our school system, that it may be completely healthy for a ten-year-old boy to not sit still for six hours in a classroom learning about long division and Vasco de Gama. Perhaps the current generation of children, that some call the Indigos, simply have a lower tolerance for school’s agenda of conformity, obedience, external motivation, right-and-wrong answers, the quantification of performance, rules and bells, report cards and grades and your permanent record. So we try to enforce their attention with stimulants, and subdue their heroic intuitive rebellion against the spirit-wrecking machine.
As I write about the “wrongness” against which we all rebel, I can hear some readers asking, “What about the metaphysical principle that it’s ‘all good’?” Just relax, I am told, nothing is wrong, all is part of the divine plan. You only perceive it as wrong because of your limited human perspective. All of this is only here for our own development. War: it gives people wonderful opportunities to make heroic choices and burn off bad karma. Life is wonderful, Charles, why do you have to make it wrong?
I am sorry, but usually such reasoning is just a sop to the conscience. If it is all good, then that is only because we perceive and experience it as terribly wrong. The perception of iniquity moves us to right it.
Nonetheless, it would be ignorant and fruitless to pass judgment upon those who do not see anything wrong, who, oblivious to the facts of destruction, think everything is basically fine. There is a natural awakening process, in which first we proceed full speed ahead participating in the world, believing in it, seeking to contribute to the Ascent of Humanity. Eventually, we encounter something that is undeniably wrong, perhaps a flagrant injustice or a serious health problem or a tragedy near at hand. Our first response is to think this is an isolated problem, remediable with some effort, within a system that is basically sound. But when we try to fix it, we discover deeper and deeper levels of wrongness. The rot spreads; we see that no injustice, no horror can stand in isolation. We see that the disappeared dissidents in South America, the child laborers in Pakistan, the clearcut forests of the Amazon, are all intimately linked together in a grotesque tapestry that includes every aspect of modern life. We realize that the problems are too big to fix. We are called to live in an entirely different way, starting with our most fundamental values and priorities.
All of us go through this process, repeatedly, in various realms of our lives; all parts of the process are right and necessary. The phase of full participation is a growth phase in which we develop gifts that will be applied very differently later. The phase of trying to fix, to endure, to soldier on with a life that isn’t working is a maturation phase that develops qualities of patience and determination and strength. The phase of discovering the all-encompassing nature of the problem is usually a phase of despair, but it need not be. Properly, it is a phase of rest, of stillness, of withdrawal, of preparation for a push. The push is a birth-push. Crises in our lives converge and propel us into a new life, a new being that we hardly imagine could exist, except that we’d heard rumors of it, echoes, and maybe even caught a glimpse of it here and there, been granted through grace a brief preview.
If you are in the midst of this process, you need not suffer if you cooperate with it. I can offer you two things. First is self-trust. Trust your own urge to withdraw even when a million messages are telling you, “The world is fine, what’s wrong with you? Get with the program.” Trust your innate belief that you are here on earth for something magnificent, even when a thousand disappointments have told you you are ordinary. Trust your idealism, buried in your eternal child’s heart, that says that a far more beautiful world than this is possible. Trust your impatience that says “good enough” is not good enough. Do not label your noble refusal to participate as laziness and do not medicalize it as an illness. Your heroic body has merely made a few sacrifices to serve your growth.
The second thing I can offer you is a map. The journey I have described is not always linear, and you may find yourself from time to time revisiting earlier territory. When you find the right life, when you find the right expression of your gifts, you will receive an unmistakable signal. You will feel excited and alive. Many people have preceded you on this journey, and many more will follow in times to come. Because the old world is falling apart, and the crises that initiate the journey are converging upon us. Soon many people will follow the paths we have pioneered. Each journey is unique, but all share the same basic dynamics I have described. When you have passed through it, and understood the necessity and rightness of each of its phases, you will be prepared to midwife others through it as well. Your condition, all the years of it, has prepared you for this. It has prepared you to ease the passage of those who will follow. Everything you have gone through, every bit of the despair, has been necessary to forge you into a healer and a guide. The need is great. The time is coming soon.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Winter's peacefullness.....

The lights of christmas have gone.....
The world is quiet.. still... white.... frozen..... Finally the almost dead-like peace of winter has descended on us....

I am feeling frozen.... stiff..... numb...... incapacitated......
I sit around a lot. There's not much I can do..... Even if I wanted to. One can only read and plan so much... No physical work to be done, except carrying wood every few days. Nothing other than the same, tedious, unchallenging household chores.No challenges, no excitement.... drab...grey...white.... Even walking Rex has lost much of its charm right now. Having a dog, not able to control his own energy and ice covered surfaces... That does not match well. As I have found out the hard way.
He unleashed that energy again after being quite sick for a day. He snatched some raw potatoes and that did not go too well for him. Raw potatoes contain a toxic, especially the peel...
I try to keep mentally active, but that is proving to become harder and harder. Interests wane,
Tried to go back to school, getting an education, a Swedish diploma, increase my knowledge of the language.... To no avail either. There's no budget for that and the puppetshow they call government here is to blame for that. While they bitch and bicker, fighting over scraps in order to achieve their own goals, they fail to govern
Talked to the person working in the adult-education programme. Told her that I more often than not get the feeling that I do not get a job here, is because I am a foreigner. She did not react surprised or even defensive. She looked at me, calmly and said that that might very well be the case..... That did not help my failing optimistic perspective of a future career.

Our situation has been forcing us to go back to what I have come to call "survivalfood", meaning cheap food... meaning a lot of carbs.... wheat, bread, rice, pasta.... But we do try to stay away from processed when ever we can!
And the effects were immediate! The pain in our joints is back. the headaches and colds are much more frequent, zits with our (pre)teen kids, digestive issues with all of us and we need to shower more often. Use deodorant more frequently. Because our body odour is much stronger. That crap has to get out of your system one way or the other.
It also forces me to starve myself of another, life bringing food; social activity in the flesh.... So I roam this digital world, seeking out others for a little bit of interaction, yet loathing it (not them), for I know it is but a hollow version of the real thing

Not that the weather is helping much either. It still is going crazy. The cycles continue...
It isn't really winter, yet spring is still far away. No real frost, no real thaw.... The surfaces that have not been cleared are covered in a thick layer of lumpy, rocky, snowy ice and the surfaces that have been, are lumpy, uneven sheets of ice. Ankle deep slush one day, frozen solid the next.... Only the frequently used roads are more or less traversable, the lanes being freed of ice by the grinding wheels with studs and wind...

The world has come to a stand still....
No progress, no thoughts, no energy, no life....
A stalemate.... which eventually will be broken, must be broken.... one way or the other...

...or is it all just an unglamorous, plain old winter depression?
Then we are all equally affected, as a family.... We are even one in this, then....

They are my roots, I am the stem, but for this tree to grow, flourish and blossom nourishment is needed. A mission, a goal and the means to achieve that.
All we can do, is wait... Keeping an open eye for an opportunity, seizing it, when it occurs. And until then remain, survive... Waiting for life bringing spring or the opportunity.... which ever comes first..

And yet....
Despite of it all....

We have seen a peace in here too. In our house, in our minds and in our hearts. Despite the predicaments we are in, we are all feeling less edgy, less frustrated, less angry. Especially during the week after christmas there was an almost eerie peace around us. It was very noticeable to all. And still is. Less squabbling. Less bitching and bickering..... What happened? What changed?
I do not know. All I know is that I blow my top less often and less fierce. I see things in a brighter light, laugh more and somehow know it'll all work out. I just hope I can hold on to that.
Don't want to turn out like some middleage, vinegarpissing grouch. Don't want to become a "Walter" as we call the type. Looking back through my own blog I see myself smile more, less of a sourpuss...
The kids, and especially the girls, bicker less and if they do it is less vicious. And I know there is something else here as well. Regularly I see things moving in the corner of my eye, on the edge of my field of vision. A sort of fluttering movement, wavelike....
I sense something and probably my kids too. My wife certainly does.... Something is going on... Change is underway... Is it on a personal level? Is it local? Or is it something bigger, the position of the moon, an alignment of planets, or yet bigger still....??? I don't know. But there are others out there sensing it too.

I also noticed that, as soon as the weather chances once more and a warm air sweeps through our valley, the birds immediately stir. They call, they sing.....

Saturday, January 17, 2015

How to live and die in the anthropocene

I found a couple of essays, through Andrea Hejlskov's blog and I just had to repost them.... 

I'll also repost the opening lines by Andrea, because they say exactly what I want to say...

"This blog post is written in response to two articles I´ve read tonight. I am extremely affected by these essays and I hope you read them. Both essays deal with the sense of sorrow and loss many of us feel watching, as we do, the world crumble before our very own eyes.
I strongly recommend them."

Learning how to die in the anthropocene by Roy Scranton, the Opiniator, 2013-11-10

Learning how to live anthropocene by Ian Mackenzie, The paragim Stroyteller, december 2013

I can not describe the effect they had on me, when I read them...... BOOM is the most fitting I can come up with. I am taken a back, lost for words.... Because I already new, deep down....

I strongly urge you to read them too...

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Plans are nothing....

Ohh, how I just love to make plans!

They're always perfect and don't cost a single penny! And what better things to do on a grey day with plus temperatures, a strong southeastern wind blowing about, water saturated snow and an uncooperative physical disposition.
The days are lengthening by 4 to 5 minutes day, yet there are still a few months more to go until spring and the soil being workable. In the meantime I read a lot, as usual, on the subject (and many others). Growing plants and having a garden in this climate requires some extra attention and knowledge. Eventually introducing domesticated animals into that garden even more so. In the meantime I am also reading into forest gardening and permaculture. Both are quite new to me and if I understand correctly have many benefits, similarities and can be used simultaneously....

There are several areas I/we want to expand, grow or change. We must, since we practically did not make any progress at all. Not in the garden, not in jobs, not in finances. We sort of remained.....
In this post I'll focus on the garden-bit.

The first one will most definitely be our vegetable garden.
Right now it is a piece of land, roughly 20x20 meters, that is home to all sorts of plants, yet none too useful to us, other than their esthetical value. I love lupines and geraniums.... There are several species of grass and meadow plants and a large patch that has become overgrown with raspberries, both yellow and red. Haven't decided what to do with those yet, since there are more patches with wild raspberry in the garden. Some sloes are in there too.
This piece has to be cultivated again, as it allegedly once was at least 5-6 years ago and there our vegetables beds will need to find a place. Smack in the middle there stands a lone aspen-tree and I am thinking about keeping that one, just as an eyecatcher. There are at least a dozen more on the border between the neighbour and us, but I like some height in the "design". But that is about the only thing that is sort of fixed. No idea about the final layout... Square beds are easy to work with, but I do not like them from an esthetical point of view. Using round forms may cost too much useable space...
As you can tell it isn't that much room for growing crops, but there will be no potatoes for one. I have my source for those and we do not eat them that often anyway. Furthermore do I want to blend edible and decorational/otherwise useful plants in the planned flowerbeds through out the rest of the garden. The emphasis will be on useful plants and there is no one saying that they can't be decorational as well. As a third option there is always the vertical space and of that we have plenty as well, so all in all we can work towards a very productive, natural and decorative garden. We are not complete newbies on gardening or growing plants and my lessons in garden architecture might come in handy after all, yet it will be a journey of discovery in every way.....

I did plant some currantbushes, red, black and josta on the piece of land, but the first 2 species will be relocated. As a test I planted 4 more black currants in our forest-like part of the garden according to forestgardening principles. The jostas are around the aspen in the middle.
I also planted some acorns this year, nine of them and of 2 different species, judging by the obviously different acorns. I just love oaks! And they might yield food for pigs one day.... I also need to find a place for at least 2 planned cherrytrees and 1 or 2 elderberries (sambucus nigra). The latter will go on the southside of the house and I think the cherries will end up there some place too.

There are several other areas too which need to be tackled. One major item of annoyment is the out of control growth of Upplänsk vallört or Symphytum uplandicum. A wonderful plant, bees love it, perfect for composting but all but impossible to get rid of in places you do not want it! And it spreads like wildfire, too. I tried cutting it and pulling it out by the root.... Now I will be covering the entire area, the steep, rocky slope on the southside of the house, with black foil for a year, hoping that that will take care of the problem. I simply refuse to go for the other option many tell me; spraying...

A second one will be our woodsupply and -storage.
Right now this is made up of a handfull of ramshackle transportpallets with sides and a sheet metal top, in which the wood was stacked to dry. These precariously lean toward one side, fall apart in some places, giving way to the weight of the wood and if it rains the outer layers get wet again. Right now every empty space between the pieces of wood is filled with snow due to the snowstorm we had. Far from an ideal situation, but we had to make due with what we had at the time.
So a decent woodshed in needed and I also want to have some storagecapability right next to the house. For that purpose I need to build a narrow roof along the eastside of the house, so I can store wood there, that immediately can be fed into the heatercellar via a window. No more dragging bags through the house....

The third one has to be to improve the access to our house as in improving the existing path and stairs and hopefully add a second (wooden) stair that will give us a direct access to the vegetable garden and the compostheap therein. This second stair at the moment is optional though, but it will materialize some time in the future. Incidentally it will be placed on the a fore mentioned slope with wooden bins beside it for herbgrowing. We found the idea on the internet, but lost the source. It is the only thing we can do with it, since the slope's main buildingmaterial is boulders.... Big ones, too. Those get real hot in summer by the way...but retain warmth in early spring and late autumn.

I am planning in embedding an irrigation system of some sort, so I can water the herbs on one point; the top next to the stairs and the water will run down from bin to bin.
I am also thinking irrigationhose here, but by the looks of the images you can tell it will cost a fair amount of material, so we'll be on the lookout for that. I was initially thinking about using the wood from torndown buildings/shed, but I used a lot of smaller pieces for heating our house up till christmas and I was not pleased by the amount of crap that came out of the wood; nails, paint, tar and what not. And this was wood that hadn't even been painted with regular paint! The red paint here usually is nothing but powdered red stone mixed with boiled linseedoil.
On the other hand does this paint conserve the wood and untreated wood will have to be treated anyhow, so there's a bit of a dilemma there.
Pressure impregnated is not even an issue to consider....

The forth one is chickens and the fifth one beekeeping.
At first I wanted to go for purebred chickens, being a local breed called Hedemorahöns. One of the reasons is that these have been bred in local conditions for generations, so they are hardy. Plus they lay quite well and give a decent amount of meat as well. Another point is that I do believe this breed has to be preserved as one of Sweden's allmogeras (how does one translate that? Old peasantry breed??) and I wanted to be a part of the genebank.
Right now I am setting my goals much less high and I will opt for any decent sized, proper egg laying hen I can get my hands on. Economics are one consideration, lack of knowledge another. I did not even mention the regulations on keeping, breeding etc.
Some real challenges will be the predators around here; fox, chickenhawk and marten. I want to let my chickens roam free, yet do not want to sacrifice the lot of them.

The beekeeping-part.... well, here too I lowered my goals... a lot!
At first I wanted to have them, use them for my "company to be" and work toward a way to make it economically sound. I also wanted a breed that is local and again pure. While I still support the Nordbi-project, I will be satisfied with any bee species can get in the beginning. From there I'll work my way towards the indigenous species.
One thing I will be doing from the beginning is keep bees on an as natural as possible basis, meaning leaving enough honey for the hive to thrive. Not plundering its foodsupply and substituting it for sugarwater. I firmly believe that that will only weaken the hive and give diseases a chance to spread. If a hive is not strong enough to survive with chemicals or antibiotics...... But I must do everything I can to keep the hive as healthy as possible, by creating the best conditions possible.
Anyway.... I made the choice to use the Warré-principles, explained here at warre.biobees.com and they even have plans to build the hives yourself. So nothing a ruler, saw, hammer and some nails can't fix, right? And with any luck I might even be able to entice a swarm to come and live with us.
This means the only real investments would have to be a beekeepers suite as I mean to leave the hive alone for the first year, so it can grow strong.

Now we have this wooden garden shed; 10m2 and located in the exact wrong place! Upon close inspection I noticed it has a double wall. Taking off the outer wall would yield a lot of wood to build a chickencoop and reduce the weight of the shed, so it might be moveable to a new location to serve as a woodshed. 10m2x2 meters equals 20m3 of wood with room above it for ventilation.
I thought of keeping the shed as a chicken coop, but moving it to the desired location is not possible. Not without a 50m crane or helicopter or by taking it completely apart to only rebuild it on the right location, hoping it will still fit and my skills are sufficient.
Anyway it will serve as the basis to achieve 2 major goals.
When we move the gardenshed we will obtain more useable parkingspace and a good possible location for the new septictank / wastewaterfilter too.

Repurposing the gardenshed means finding new storage solutions for the tools. I might just be able to create a small tool shed under the overhang of the balcony.
Another solution is to reduce the amount of tools. We have a fair amount of grass. One part is well kept and flat, so a musclepowered mower is usefull. The other part is wild, uneven and I took care of that with an old, noisy, smelly, enginedriven lawnmower that got pretty banged up in the proces. That part happens to be the part where the vegetablegarden is to be situated. If I use shredded wood between the beds I do not need to mow.... So exit lawnmower. Saves a few square cm's and a lot of gas, fumes and noise. For other more difficult to reach places I have the scythe. All in all I do not have all that many gardentools or at least not bulky ones. An array of handtools, yet not enough spades or decent shovels. A wheelbarrow will find its way here, other than the heavy, unwieldy thing I have now. Swedish gardentools are so very different from what I am used to!! They feel clumsy, heavy and like I said unwieldy.

Originally we were planning on having a rootcellar as well, but we will skip this plan. There will be a large foodcellar in the house, so no need to make another one.
Another plan is to have 2 1 cubicmeter tanks linked to each other to collect rainwater for wateringpurposes and a pent in front of those, which might house a small anvil and forge and a pannmur, which is a large woodheated kind of kettle. They are perfect for dying wool and fabric or just handy for heating larger amounts of warm water for whatever reason.

Something like this;

So there you have it; a nice, clear plan for me to use....
I often have lots of ideas, plans etc. in my head, all worked out. Putting it on paper, understandably, is more challenging.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Happy birthday to me....

Well, it was my time... The Double 4 is marked.

We've had a lot of snow lately and I wanted to spend sometime outside. Having fun in the snow, trying my christmas presents, inhaling fresh air, soaking up some sun and generally just spend some time alone with my better half.
So I asked the mss. to join me. Hence the "numerous" images of me...

I really like this one
But the day before we went for a longer walk with the dog too, plowing through the snow, while more was still coming down. It was fun stomping through knee deep snow and a few interesting observations were made.
1) Rex goes nuts in snow.... He runs, jumps, sniffs, burrows and does all over again. A seemingly endless supply of energy and the longer he's out, the more it seems to become!
2) When it snows, keep your anoraks hood up. It fills up with snow and that is not fun, when taking off the anorak.
3) Stomping through such deep snow is hard work. Dress relatively light for the occasion! The mss. was wearing a fleece vest, a coat, winter pants, and fleece gloves, hat and acrylic shawl, all in synthetics. She was sweating heavily. I was wearing wool pants, a cotton longsleeve, a wool sweater and my canvas anorak. The sheepskin Finnish army hat on my noggin. I was warm, but did not sweat.
I guess the issue here, was breathability. Both were warm, I remained dry.

Just a few reminders there...

And today we actually went out on a longer hike, walk, whatever you want to call it.
After the kids had gone to school, we collected our things, filled a thermos with coffee and one with water and started moving.
We had a wonderful time, despite the fact that walking through a thick layer of powdery snow is anything but easy, especially for a few hours. The initial plan was to bring the pulka as well, but we did not. In hindsight might that have been more comfortable, and we might have worn out Rex some more, but that would have meant that I did not get to properly test the German/Swedish backpack alliance.
My wife took the dog, I hauled the backpack.... and struggled to keep up. I had packed the backpack with some real weight, some 15kg. I wanted to know if it did perform as I hoped it would. Pushing it a little just makes things more clear. Any hidden drawbacks would show... as would any lack of physical fitness. And I must admit, much to my surprise, that there were little problems with either!
The backpack carries very comfortably, feels well balanced and at no point gave any trouble, not even when I misstepped. I remember the old M39 immediately wanting to pull me down, and occasionally succeeding, yet this construction remained in place, close to my back and not moving in the direction of the potential fall. I guess I finally did it; adapted a pack for me that is entirely my own! Fits like a glove.
The main drawback was my anorak. More specifically the buttons of the shoulderflappythingies. You know, the flaps that hold rankinsignia. These will come off a.s.a.p.

The weather played along nicely. At first it wasn't as sunny as predicted, but that turned out to be a positive thing. It did not get warm that fast and the temperatures remained below zero for longer. It also created the most amazing, fairytale-like light which, combined with the snow, sometimes was pure magic. Next to impossible to capture and we stood still regularly, often..... And  we gazed upon the landscape and the valley in which we live.... much to the obvious discomfort of Rex, who just wanted to keep on going. He ran from left to right, sniffing here, lifting his leg there, before burying his head up to his shoulders in the now on the next spot. Signs of wildlife were prolific today. Right at the beginning we came across some big mooseprints, which crossed the path, generally following its direction, but often veering off to browse. There were also many prints of deer, fox and hare. The local fauna had been busy! All of these prints were fresh too, so apparently we had missed rushhour, although I have the sneaking suspicion that many an animal was in the treeline, just out of sight.

My wife has the extraordinary talent of not doing too well in photos.
Yet I did not want to leave her out entirely...

The local skyline...
We took a coffeebreak at the crossroads I showed previously. It was an open space and now the sun shone brightly. While my wife made arrangements for a very necessary sanitational action, I strapped on christmaspresent nr.1; a pair of old snowshoes. These are a bambooframe and a sort of woven webbing lacing. I think they are old armyissue.... What isn't with me?

I wish I could've read Rex' thoughts...

Well, actually there were 2 pairs and I bought them after I sold off my 4 military wool blankets. I did sell off much more of my stuff (And there's more on the list. Feels good to create some room, really) and I did give myself a second present; a set of US army goggles of pre-1945 vintage. I just like the style and would have loved to have some of those German Gebirgsjäger goggles, but these were much cheaper... I mean real cheap and they just as well serve their purpose; prevent snowblindness.

After we were done we went for the coffee... and "birthdaycake"! Not really birthdaycake but a local delicacy from where we come from. It is called "kerststol" and is a loaf of bread, richly filled with raisins, dried fruit and almondpaste.
The top is sprinkled with powdered sugar. It is best when the slice is covered with a thick layer of real butter and washed down with hot coffee! Or so do I think
and since it was my birthday I got to choose.... No cake. We enjoyed food and drink and sunshine and I made a few rounds through the forest on my snowshoes. The straps are still stiff, so at first I buckled them up too loose. Felt like flapping around on those diver's flippers! I retied them and tried again. A lot better, but still felt like walking with duckfeet. It felt strange, but I could get used to it. In this loose, powdery snow the flotation was at least better then without, but not as good as I had thought. They did very well between the trees, when going over the undergrowth of blue- and lingonberry bushes and forest litter. Where I would previously sink away down to my knees or deeper, I now went down some 10-15cm, so there was a lot of improvement there.
Of course did Rex also get a bite of the bread and we brought along a thermos with not too cold water and a bowl for him too. We really need to get him one of those foldable bowls.
After that I clowned around a little bit more on the snowshoes and noticed that the back would flip up and kick up a lot of snow, which would then cling to the back of my legs. I did not like that at all, but when I loosened the buckle of the snowshoes I noticed why. The snow was wet. Temperatures had risen above freezing and the top layer was partially melting.
It was time to get a move on anyway. Rex was getting restless and we had cooled down as well, starting to feel a bit stiff. We had been hiking for about 2-2,5 hours after all.
So we packed everything up and moved on. I had brought along all the essentials for making fire like hatchet, saw, firekit and even the Swedish messkit, but Rex just is too full of energy. He has not yet learned to control that and having him running around on a long leash with an open fire or boiling water around.....mmmm No good idea.
The returntrip was quite uneventful, apart from a rising annoyance with my wife, because Rex would not slow down or stop pulling. Her hands were hurting from holding him back. We were on a road with traffic now, so having the leash extended to its full length, 10 meters, is no good idea either.
I'll just leave you with the final images and be done with it. Thanks for looking!!