Sunday, July 19, 2015

A feast of frugality

A Swedish summernight
In between rainy and cold days we occasionally have a spell of fair weather and last weekend was such a spell...

A thunderstorm building up.....

The purchase of the beaten up and ugly Volvo already paid off.
Last weekend I was able to loan a trailer, in exchange for changing the tires from winter to summer tires, and my son (yanked him from his pencils and paper and out of his bedroom) and I headed out to get some things. First on the list was a load of old double glass windows. The idea is to use those in order to build a semi greenhouse under our balcony. Due to the fact that some were damaged the original very low price got even lower. I already anticipated some damage in my calculations.
Then we moved on to the second goal, being an elderly lady, who wanted to get rid of some 200 old  roof tiles. We could have them and only needed to pick them off the roof of a small cabin. Turned out the cabin was a bit bigger than the small we expected and the 200 turned out to be nearly twice as much..... But the weather was good and the tiles were in good shape, having a nice old look to them, complete with mosses and lichens..... and 5 inhabited wasp nests. Luckily they were not that big yet, so no harm done.... to us... We needed to make a second trip in order to get everything home.
When we drove home after the first load, a road the lady advised us, we came across a buzzard. A full grown, mature buzzard, which sat low in a tree, right next to the road less than 10 meters away. As we approached it, it flew up, made a turn over the road, the sun hitting it from behind and setting his feathers a blaze with shades of copper and gold. He swooped to another tree and landed on the lowest branch. When we came closer still. he lept up and flew away into the trees... A magnificent, big bird!!! And so close.....
But the highlight of the day was my son. He is turning out to be a chip of the old block; hardworking and not complaining about it. He kept going without me needing to tell him to once, carrying and stacking the tiles to and into the trailer. I stood on the roof, handing down the tiles and watched him.... 14 years... and he was wearing my old army fatigues and they fit him quite well. Damn, they grow up so fast!! He seemed to be enjoying it, actually, although he would not willingly admit it.

So now there are 2 more piles of constructional material waiting to be used; enough windows to make a glass wall. so we can make that greenhouse... well, actually a closed up porch. It will serve several purposes: one, we can sow and pre-grow plants in it. Two, we have a place to take off snowy, muddy or wet clothes and boots, before we enter the house and mess it up. Three, the sun will hit the glass panes directly in winter, warming up the area behind it, which will create a buffer, so the cold will not enter the backdoor when we open it. It might even be enough to warm up the cellar hallway a bit. And as a bonus we can sit in the sun during winter without freezing our butts off to soak up some of those very necessary D-vitamins. Total cost; 400 sek.

The tiles will be more than enough to cover the roof of the chicken/rabbit coop and the porch, with many to spare. Those might come in handy at a later date. I might even create another shed like the woodworking shed. The broken ones will be used to fill the potholes in the road.

And speaking of help.....
I had the strangest creature helping me with weeding in the garden today; a cat.... sort off...

Plus I made a new friend too! A little robin that lives in our garden. It is around whenever I am working there and I see it flitting through the trees almost daily. It approaches me closely, regularly sitting there and watching me uncovering juicy worms and delicious grubs just out of arms reach. It comes so close that I took the next picture with my cellphone, but it turned its back on that one the moment I took the picture.

But the feast actually started about 2 weeks ago. I had been eyeballing one of those polytunnel greenhouses for a while and there was a company here in Sweden selling those. I figured such a polytunnel has many advantages; it is portable, so no buildingpermits required. And since it is portable we could first sow and pre grow plants and than move it, placing it over growing beds and grow peppers, tomatoes and the like in it. At the end of the season it would be taken down and stored. A greenhouse of 8x4 meters would set us back some 6500sek.... A hefty price.... On Ebay however my onlinebargainhuntingtalent (great scrabble word!) uncovered a source in the UK selling them much cheaper. Much, much cheaper..... Same system, same principle, yet a bit smaller being 6x3 meters. But I needed to bid on it.... and I did. In the end it saved us more than 4500sek incl. shipping!!!

And because we had built our greenhouse we received a gift in the form of plants from Esbjörn, the man who helped us a lot last year. We received a lot of plants, both decorative and useful. From my father in law we received a good number of beans and some cabbages and all of these goodies found a place in our garden.

In the meantime I was also able to get my hands on an old frame used to hang swings from. Someone wanted to get rid of it and I could have it if I came over and took it down myself. I figured it might make a great frame for our beans to climb onto. So I drove to the given address and found myself facing a homemade swing; almost 3 meters high, at least as deep and 4 meters wide... made out of old fashioned, decent quality scaffolding tubes! The owner's father had picked it up somewhere, she had been swinging from it, her kids had and now they had outgrown it... And virtually no rust!!! I guess my grandchildren might be able to use it too some day!
Now the beans are starting to grow into it. It is big enough to be placed over 2 beds simultaneously and when rotated we can simply walk though it and pick what we need.

But the cheapfeast was not quite complete yet. From work I was allowed to bring home stacks of plastic sowing boards and pots. Leftovers from our planting period. All I need to do is clean them and they are ready for use again. With any luck they will serve us quite a while, having plenty of spares. And it means less waste to begin with.

All this outbalances the large expanses we had previously and it again means that someone else's waste will be put to good use again.....

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A matter of perspective

The mind is numb. Skull is empty. It is hard to come up with cohesive thoughts.
So this post is mostly a mix of several incidents and brainfarts I had over the past few weeks.. And since there is little of significance to tell I'll make up for that with pictures...

It is high summer out there now. The weather turned quite dramatically and abruptly; 30 degrees C, windy and dry and within a matter of days we have been issued with the highest alert level for forest fires, despite the copious amounts of rain we had. The lakes are full and the soil still seems moist, but everything above ground is bone dry.
But before we received the alert we did the right thing during good weather spells...

And of course we go swimming in the lakes, but only once for me up to now. We also introduced Rex to motion in large open waters a.k.a. swimming. After getting used to water around his feet and up to his chest he had his first lesson and he jumped in head over heels. Just lept off the peer into the water.... And that scared the living bejesus out of him! We couldn't get him in afterwards anymore!

....And as I am writing here I got word that my youngest daughter just swam her first few meters in the lake without any kind of aid!! Yes!! Finally!!
one like this...
Of course she does that while I am not there.....

It is high summer... and I bought a snow shovel for the wintercarkit.
It is one of those Swedish army folding shovels with add-on snowblade. These are sturdy, will not brake when digging out ones car like plastic ones and above all this one was cheap as a set.
While unpacking it I noticed it was thickly covered in gungrease, which needed to be wiped off, leaving just a thin film. And while I was doing that the smell of the grease triggered memories... Memories of my own time in the military, but above all of the visits to the armor and military museums I went to over the years... Good memories....

the second bee I saw at work
My current job. I guess it beats the average job, being outside all the time, but it is a bit dull and unchallenging (and unproductive, senseless even) and I sometimes feel that I could use the time better. But we have been given an economic breather. A test of sorts. Will we keep on growing in the direction we are supposed to/want to or will we fall back into the trap of the modern easy way of living. It feels like we have reached the same point like we had before the move; working for someone else, get paid and then spend that to live. Or enlarge the library at home... :)
Don't like working full time. It costs way to much free time. And in a way it feels like I am wasting time. Time I should be spending elsewhere or in another way. But it does provide us with an income with which we can do things. If I have time, I have no cash and now that I have a little cash I find myself wanting more time.... And that is all quite frustrating. There's so much to be done, yet so little time to do it in. Besides my fulltime job (40 h/w) my wife works almost as much on average and for some reason my job leaves me pretty much dead in the water during evenings and weekends. When I get home it is very hard to keep going. It is after all my first fulltime job in 14 years and I am not used to it, but there is something else too... Maybe there is something to that rythm that leaves me, and maybe many others, with little energy after work. And I wonder why that is? Is it really the workdayroutine? Are we conditioned to work, watch tv and spending? Or is it much more basic and mondane; the lack of satisfaction from said job? Can't remember having this feeling when harvesting, but that period was a lot shorter.
Another thought occurred to me; maybe we don't really have homesteadingblood? Maybe that doesn't come naturally and has to be learned or inbred? All I know is that we lack the discipline, the drive or the will to fully commit to that... yet. Some are further in it than others and it sometimes feels like we are still more clinging to or are used to the previously mentioned modern workdayroutine than we care to admit.
Whatever the reason (lack of time, energy or will) I find the lack of progress highly frustrating and it looks like all of our livestock keeping plans will have to be put on hold for another year. I really hope to have all the infrastructure ready by next season, both for animals and plants!!

Besides that one whole paycheck merely evaporated.... We spent a lot of cash at the dentist. Among things, my big mouth is getting fixed. It has been 2 years, but I'd much rather spend my money on something else, honestly.
We also got Rex neutered, taking another big chunk out of said check, but as far as we can tell to good effect. He is easier to deal with, that much is true and I am sure that if we can get him socialised with other dogs, we'll end up with one very pleasant dog to deal with for everyone involved!
So we signed up for a training programme covering basic obedience and social training. That will be sometime during autumn, which probably will teach us as much as it will Rex. Plus we can work on our network and social skills as well. The we here will most likely be me...

Speaking of social (and old fashioned) skills.... The charcoalkiln has been built again! A good way to spend time in the woods, talk to folks and work on old fashioned skills too. I now got to witness the whole buildup progress from the beginning, making the picture complete. Now I just need to find a hole in my schedule to assist in talking turns watching it, when it smoulders. That will be during my last 2 working weeks at the churchyard, after which the transition to harvesting will occur... hopefully.


Either way there still is (very) little progress. I bought a polytunnel greenhouse which should arrive any day now and we finally were able to put up a drying stand. No need for a tumble dryer during fair weather and we were in for a bit of a surprise actually...

I also did see someone, who is keeping bees in order to learn some more about that.... and to just spend time being near bees and a hive.... because that is kind of addictive I noticed. Said gentleman is the proud owner of a so called top bar hive and that principle interested me greatly. Especially since I learned that people as far north as Canada or Lapland are using this type of hive! The main benefit? No lifting! Even a person less fit or in a wheelchair could keep bees this way! Be that as it may it turned out to be a most satisfying and educating afternoon. We were standing besides the open hive, working with the bees without protection. He even in slippers, shorts and a tshirt. Until the bees, for some reason, started to get agitated and we put on some protection. Just for safe measure. They seemed to be targeting him mostly. I also learned, much to my liking, that they kept chickens (the breed we want to keep), grew some of their own food and experimented with the same type of growing I want to get into; raised plantbeds. Plus they had the roof full of solarcells, so I learned a lot about the pros and cons of that as well!
Learning about these top bar hives also made me postpone the purchase of bees. I will go for this type of beekeeping and need to build some hives first. Besides that it gives me the time to get beepopulations in time, so they will have the proper time to grow and prepare for winter.

There is much weeding to be done and not just at work. While I was busy relieving the iris flowerbed from overgrowing grasses it occurred to me that we do have a shortage of compost. And that this grass would end up there in order to create more compost for the growing beds. So in effect I was not weeding, but harvesting compost(material). Sounds a lot better. And makes it less of a drag to do!

The warm weather also does make for good reading weather, sitting in the backyard in the shade of the tree crowns. As I sat there I felt a mosquito sting me and I rejected the urge to swat it. Instead I watched it, seeing it probe its sucking mouthpart into my lower leg, lifting it out partially again, only to thrust it in even deeper, all the way up to the head. I just watched it, seeing its abdomen swell and turn bright red with blood until it had its fill, removed the mouthpart, cleaned it and lumbered off.... A thought occurred to me; now it, like the other mosquitoes that fed on me before it, is going off to lay eggs and those eggs will hatch, the larvae will grow into new mosquitos, if they are not being eaten beforehand by fish and other predators, and those mosquitos will become food too for birds and the like.... A very small part of me, that single drop of blood, will become a part of the cycle of life. It might feed a local fish or fly off with one of the swallows, dashing through the air here right now.

You see.... It is all a matter of perspective...