Thursday, October 29, 2015

one is never too old to learn

The other day I went to a lecture, given by a Dutch professor; Arjen Wals, about the role of higher education in our world today. I'd never been to any such thing or to a university for that matter, so had no idea what to expect. I went to the Högskola Dalarna. the university in Falun and took my seat on the benches of the library, feeling quite a bit out of place between all the students and, what I assume, staff members. Since it was an open lecture there might have been others from outside as well....

Titel: "There are no jobs on a dead Planet" – Rethinking the role of higher education in light of Systemic Global Dysfunction
Arjen E.J. Wals, professor in Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at the  Wageningen university in the Netherlands and spokesperson for Social Learning for Sustainability within UNESCO.

More information about Arjen and his lecture "There are no jobs on a dead Planet" – Rethinking the role of higher education in light of Systemic Global Dysfunction

In times when teachers around the globe are held to account by the performance of their students in international comparisons such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which focus on literacy, numeracy, and science, it is a challenge for them to engage in something as ill defined as "sustainability." In times when many of us, including our students, spend many waking hours gazing at an electronic screen, it is a challenge to connect meaningfully with the complex issues of sustainability affecting our world. In times when schools are increasingly seen as the manufacturers of the "human capital" needed to serve the economy and as places where the seeds of consumerism can be planted at an early age, it is a challenge to reorient teaching and learning to counter this status quo.
These challenges become even more imposing when vested interest groups act to maintain hegemonic unsustainable practices for their own benefit at the expense of the Earth as a whole. How should higher education - supposedly the place where some of the smartest people on the Planet gather - respond?
In my talk I will focus on a number of critical factors that can enable of higher education to re-orient itself, towards human development with people and Planet in mind.

I had the chance to talk to him personally a little afterwards and he gave me some links for additional information. He also has his own blog, called Transformative learning if anyone is interested in his ideas and what he does. I recommend it if you have an interest in the educational systems.
Here's a dropbox-link from my dropbox with the files he shared.

What did I take away from this? 
Well, most of what he said, I already knew. Roughly 90%. What I did not know, was strictly related to the field of education. There was also the aspect of time. Arjen feels that it is time to totally overhaul our current educational systems and I wholeheartedly agree. I only fear that we do not have the time for that anymore. There is no more time to redo such an institution as modern education.
For me personally it was a confirmation that I am not alone in this. That I do not see things to dark or to negatively. There really is something fundamentally wrong with our systems today and hearing someone like Arjen speak about it, makes it clear that there are many people everywhere and on every level worrying about and working on it. That means there is a vast potential at work here, despite politicians and corporations trying to manipulate and control us to think and do otherwise.
He also mentioned something I hadn't heard before; the ecological handprint.
He travels a lot and thus has a huge ecological footprint, but as he sees it, he hopes that he can balance that by reaching out to people, spreading his word and making a difference that way. His ecological handprint. I really liked that one!

Why is this so important? 
Why was this lecture so important to me? 
Simple, my kids are becoming teens. It is they who will be subjected to those higher educational systems soon; college, university... It is they who walk away from there and who will in their turn change the world and hopefully for the better. better then we did and certainly better than the generations before us!

And on that note I can proudly announce that the learning doesn't stop there for us! Both the mrs. and I found jobs. She as a substitute teacher at the local kindergarten and elementary school and I as a substitute mentor/guide for refugee teenagers that are alone.
This means for the both of us working in completely new fields. It will certainly broaden our horizons.

What has this all got to do with woodsmanship??
Nothing!! But it hopefully will make us better and wiser people.
As far as the woodsman-thing is concerned..... I have book a trip to Finland and I am going to meet the weekend woodsman and Finnman.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How much fun is that??

Well, there I am; sitting at home.... sick.....
The day after we finished the harvest I developed a pretty fierce cold, which turned into an inflammation of the sinuses.
Guess I needed a break, huh....

Books, hot tea and ehhhmm.... cough syrup. Yeah, cough syrup.
That did give me time to do something I enjoy doing; digging through books!
I really love the online reservation possibility our local libraries provide. A matter of putting out a reservation on the books you want and collect them once they are set aside for you. So I have a couple of stacks of books at home right now. Some on gardening and older vegetable species, some on dogs and sledding and some to just read. Lars Wilderäng's Stjärnfall and Stjärnklart. Interesting only for Swedish readers, since it is a Swedish author, written in Swedish and the stories are situated in Sweden.
For those interested, here's a Swedish review of the book Stjärnfall on the Y'know, the ones that did the olja för blåbär book that I reviewed here.
It describes what might happen in Swedish society, when for example electricity and/or electronic gadgets, like computers and such, stop working. Not a pretty picture, but the books are quite thrilling, if somewhat clinic in places. But that might also be, because of the language barrier.

Since the dog still needs to go out, so do I and some rounds of fresh air do work wonders, even if I'd rather coop up and huddle under a blanket. On the other hand we did get him his own backpack, so we have begun training with that one. Only with a voluminous, yet light load, so that he gets used to it, before we start loading it.
I must say I was kind of surprised to see him getting accustomed to it so fast! It was strange at first, but very soon afterward he just walked around as if he had done so for ever. It only still is a bit odd, when he decides to make his way through the undergrowth.

Other than that there isn't much to tell... Only a bunch of autumn scenes....

Oh yeah....
In the meantime I redid my mancave.... again. New paint, new floor....
Is it a bad thing to admit that I actually have a "wardrobe" for my framed backpacks?? I have 7 now, after selling my M39, but getting an old Bergen.... for free. I have become a collector... a hoarder! Ahhh, the shame!! Can't help, just like'm.... a lot... But the herd will get culled. 2 have already new destinations, 1 is my daughter's and 2 are those ancient, derelicted ones I still have not fixed.... or have any idea on how to. Just can't get myself to throw them in the dumpster,
But I already am liking the fit of that Bergen much better than the Haglöfs'.

See.... my own backpackwardrobe.... with a well lit workingarea to the left and a bookcase to the front right, which you can't see as it is behind a wall.

The Bergen; it is old, a mustard coloured, course canvas with leather straps. A webbingbelt instead of a leather one on the lower back. Three large pockets on the outside, a pocket on the inside and..... a small pocket on the left side! A small flap gives access to a horizontal pocket across the back. Never seen anything like it!
Plus a couple of eyelets which can hold leather straps, for a sleepingmat for instance.


Man, I need to get out more......

Speaking of which..... if that illness wasn't holding me back, moose huntingseason is. The hunting parties are right around here in the forests and they do not take well to any disturbances. Usually I would not care too much about that, but given the fact that I'd like to join 'm next year, I do not want to create a lot of fuzz or step on long, sensitive toes.
And if the bullets aren't flying thick (we heard the rifle shots) deerkeds are. Man, they are out in force this year!! When we were in the woods with Rex, he discovered a night lair and we got covered in keds in no time flat. Happens everytime we go out in the woods. Disgusting and unpleasant critters.

Monday, October 12, 2015

How'bout the future??

I've been reading and learning a lot these past months & years.
Stuff like peak-oil, the ever ongoing war on terrorism and all the lies spun around that, the ever increasing dumbing down of society, the unfunded and overpromoted belief of some new hi-tech thing taking care of it all in the future and the continuously growing, self inflating bubble of our financial systems ....
Many agree that this has to fail sooner or later, most likely sooner than later. Most wish to turn their heads....
There are plenty out there who insist the worlds as we know it will vanish in a single, cataclysmic blast, a nuclear winter or som'e such.... And there are equally many saying that society will decline and tumble down over decades without apocalyptic scenes, using previously collapsed societies and civilisations as a model. But......

I do feel that especially the latter ones are missing some points, while connecting the dots. Maybe because they do not see all the dots?

Reading and learning about peak-oil for instance has convinced me that society as we know it, solely based on cheap and abundant fossil fuels, will come to an end and cease to exist. It can not be otherwise, because there are more and more signs showing we are running out of easily and cheaply accessible fossil fuel sources on which literally every aspect of our lives are based. Literally everything is directly connected to those these days, especially oil. If it is not made of it, than it is transported by it, produced by it or powered by it. Don't believe me? Look around you. Take any given object directly in your field of view and retrace its origins. How did it get to you? What was needed to make it? I bet that at least every second step will be oil.... At least.

There are many who put their faith in technology and that this will conjure up a or the solution. Well, ask yourself; how would this technology come to be? Designed how and by who? And especially produced and powered how?? Solar energy? Any idea how much oil is involved in producing and delivering those cells?? Windpower.... The same thing. How much oil is needed to manufacture and transport those hideous mills? How much is needed to keep them operating?
The nuclear option then? Again how much is needed to build, operate and maintain a power plant? The waste subject notwithstanding...
No, our current way of living is only possible by accessing and using vast amounts of cheap and abundant energy; fossil fuels.

So no, apart from the cheap fossil fuel there is nothing that we have today that can take the role of energy deliverer. So yes, the energy guzzling society as we know it will cease to exist. And we need to adapt to that fact FAST. Question is how....

So the oil will dry up over the next decades. That is what a great deal of sources predict. That could mean that the access to oil for the common man will end way before that. A matter of supply and demand and the resulting rise in price, making it inaffordable for the commoners....

However, there is another item that threatens today's modern societies; finances.... If there ever was one big hoax, one huge bubble it is the financial world today. And that one might pull the plug far more abrupt than fuel would. And there are many signs telling us that the bottom will fall out of that one anytime soon. What will happen if the financial systems finally collapse under its own weight? The weight of the debt-based systems? More debt? How??

And then.... there is a third not yet often looked at factor that will make our modern world come to an end: food. I realised that while I was helping a local potatofarmer with the harvest. Everything he does and produces is a based on the first 2 things mentioned; oil and money.
He works his lands, using big machines, he buys his seed potatoes abroad, requiring lots of transport, he plants and maintains his fields, using chemicals and big machines and then he harvests his crops, again using those big machines.
After that he stores, processes, sells and transports his crops often hundreds of kilometers, using loads of electricity and fuel to eventually feed many mouths far away. And that is the energy aspect.
The financial aspect looks something like this; a modern farmer needs a good deal of land in order to create sufficient revenue in order to pay for his farm and his machines. However it is the market/wholesalers that dictate the price of the products, not the farmer himself. If he does that, the wholesaler/market will look for other sources and there will always be some that will succumb to the pressure. So the price for milk, potatoes, grain or whatever is pressed down so much that farmers barely can cover their expenses. So in order to create more revenue, the farmer needs more land and in order to manage that he needs bigger machines, for which he needs to loan money. So his operational costs go up and he needs to create even more revenue..... You see where this is going, right?
By the way, I based myself on stories in the media and on stories of some crop/cattle farmers themselves.

If there were neither oil nor finances he could not do that and many mouths would not receive their potatoes and then I realised.... He is not the only one. That is exactly the same for every single crop we eat today!
So if fuel or finances fail us, we will starve, simply because farmers no longer can produce.
Man has lived and thrived for millennia without those, but today we face a unique situation that might do us in. Today's farmers not only need external resources to produce, they also lack the infrastructure to change their producing ways. No replacements for the tractors. Horses are scarce and the know how how to use them even more so. The tools that are needed and are powered by horses (or oxen) are equally absent.
When previous civilisations fell, there was a "safetynet"; the peasantry. They had the means and the knowhow to continue feeding a, often reduced, population, making it possible to reboot and restart. Today we do not have that. Farmers today more often than not do not know or are not able to breed, store and reuse the resources they need. They do not know how to collect seeds, how to store them and how to reuse them, even if it were possible to collect them in the first place. Many plants used for foodcrops are not species, but hybrids and as such do not reproduce as the plant that gave them. The staple diet of the western world are amongst others potatoes and grains, most of which do not handle to climate in which they are grown well. A good frost and they are gone.....
Yes, there are a good deal of folks out there that grow their own food 'n all, but how many of them do have the knowledge and possibilities I just described? I bet most of them just do as everyone else; order their seeds and bulbs elsewhere and have them transported to them.
And yes, many of the farmers and home growers today probably do have a stock of seeds or bulbs to sow and plant, but how many of them will be able to hold onto those, when starving mobs come running up their driveway?
Shortages of any kind always lead to conflict... Not being able to produce food on a sufficient scale.... well, you do the math. And you can bet that the upper classes and the military will take the first, the biggest and the best part of what'll be left.
So.... if a lack or absence of oil and finances, and the resulting wars, will not finish us off, starvation inevitably will.... That will be the sad outcome for the vast majority...

We simply lack the know how, the resources and the infrastructure to reboot and restart!!

And that sounds pretty apocalyptic to me......


We take immediate action to prevent all that.
It isn't over yet. There still are ways to learn, to adapt and to change. And here is where the majority of preppers make a fundamental thinkingerror. They focus on surviving a crisis by shortterm thinking. Stocking up on food, water and gimmicks. We need to think longterm. What to do if the stocked goods run out.... We need to learn to produce them in sufficient quantities.

We ourselves have recently begun to look for old books on farming and preserving food, looking for books on the complete cycle of sowing, growing, harvesting, preserving, but also on seed collecting, storing and using.
Local seed exchange circles sound like a good idea. Looking for old crop species too. So do muscle powered tools. Invest in these, because that often requires a small amount of cash or effort, but will prove invaluable in the times ahead.

Will this save us? Don't know, but it sure will buy us more time to adapt and maybe even overcome.

But we need to......
Input of your own?

Come and discuss if you please....

Friday, October 9, 2015

It's the woolly season!!

The season of gardening has come to an end and the first frosts have become a fact. The harvests are done, the fields are empty once more.... No more (fulltime or paid) work, but a lot of free time, a long to-do-list and plenty of woods all around us.... And time to bring out all the woolly good stuff! Blankets and sweaters and hats and mittens and socks and shawls...... Nothing more comfy than those things to cloth yourself with and wrap yourself in, feeling all snuggly and warm.

During the last few weeks we had to deal with some crises and a trip to Tallinn, Estonia came as a big relieve to the constant and mounting pressure. It made it possible for my wife and me to be away from it all, without kids or household, for the first time in 14 years. And that was very necessary too!
What can I say of this trip and Tallinn. It was a boattrip; leaving friday afternoon, spending the night on board, reaching Tallinn in the morning, spending the day there, back on board by 18:00 and sail back home to arrive on sunday morning. Nothing spectacular or woodsman-ish, but quite relaxing.
My summerjob allowed us to not having to turn every penny 4 times before spending it, so good food, drinks and some goodies for the kids, all 3 of them got real woollen slippers for the winter, and a small taxfree contribution to the liquor cabinet were not such big issues as usually.
The city itself; what we saw if it is still very much marked by 50 years of soviet oppression, grim and grey, but the old city centre is quite nice and has a great atmosphere. It reminded us both of the innercity of Maastricht for instance and we realised how much we missed that; strolling through such an old centre, having a cup of coffee or a good meal somewhere in a cosy café or restaurant, the burgundian life that we used to know in the south of the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany.

The view from the diningtable on the way out...

Checking out a logcabin with peatroof. Something like this would make a great "mancave" or guesthouse back home...

And visiting a Russian othodox church.... I had never seen anything like this in real life and I must say it was quite impressive, not just architecturally...

Now things like this... those we have seen before! It immediately reminded me of the castles we visited in Germany for example and that might not be surprising. The whole innercity has quite an old European feel about it.

We visited one of the vantage points in the old city and there was this gull..... This gull was quite big and he was not afraid of anyone and I took the opportunity to study it up close. And I had another opportunity when we sailed back into Stockholm harbour. There were gulls riding aircurrents, right next to where we stood and we could get a good look at them, as they seemed to just be suspended in mid air, their bodies perfectly streamlined for riding those airwaves.... I am always in awe to see nature's perfect designs!!

<-----  My interest...

     My wife's interest ----->
That is all woolstuff. Felted 'n all....

A very tiny shop entrance and a huge coffee pot...

The sunset as we were headfing home and the sunrise as we entered the Stockholm archipelago. As wonderful piece of scenery..... ruined by the many holiday residences that littered every shoreline...

This year's harvest was not the pleasure it was the years before. The first weeks were chilly and above all wet, then came a week with fine weather and the last week was simply stonecold. Should I harbour any romantic feelings about farming/harvesting.... then these are gone. But I still do love it.
I love doing physical work, I love doing decent, honest and meaningful work and I love being outside while I work. Looking at the landscape and all therein is just one ongoing joy.
This year's harvest also had some surprises in store, some gifts the earth released. At one point the harvester brought up a shed deer's antler and when we completed the loop and took the row next to the first one, the harvester coughed up the matching other one! How big are the odds??? A deer shedding both antlers at the same time and me finding them??
Another goodie, besides a horseshoe and some other horse related metal items, was an old axehead. What was so noticeable was the narrow axe blade, the extension down the shaft, known as the axe-lip, and the triangular hole at the top, known as the axe-eye. I will try to clean them up a bit and keep them as decorations in my room. Cool stuff to find and muse about....

As usual I like to watch the wildlife around the fields; roedeer mainly and of course birds. The tofsvipor/lapwings are a special treat: the sun reflects on their white bellies as they elegantly fly in flocks across the fields, almost looking as if they are performing an aerial ballet and this year there were groups of them gathered in the fields we harvested. One group had 2-3 adults and many young ones, lacking the large plume on their head. We passed them by at about 2 meters and they did not move!!
I also regularly watched falcons as the swooped across the fields, looking for anything edible we scared away.

And on the last day we were being treated to the most spectacular sunrise I have seen in a very long time. While we were busy sorting potatoes, standing on the harvester, the sun came up. There was a small strip of clear sky just where the sun rose over the horizon and it was as if someone used a huge bucket and just poured sunlight over us. It grew ever brighter real quick and we literally bathed in it. A glorious and wonderful moment. After that the day turned grey again quickly.

Back at home I have been treated on a wonderful display of the northern lights under a crystal clear sky filled with a sparkling starry sky, while standing at the lakeshore. It was cold, freezing and it was the last round walking the dog that day. This was the first time that I actually saw the northern lights since we moved here and I watched in awe as the green rays gently flickered across the sky, looking as if they came from the hills on the other side of the lake, which was calm enough to see the light mirrored in it. True natural magic.....

We have also been reconsidering the whole issue around Rex. To me it felt just plain wrong to let him go and I know the others felt that even more so. Yes, it would be the most practical thing to do, but.... He has become a member of this family and he has found his way to us for a reason. Relocating him, just because we felt he did not fit in (or because it was inconvenient) just was..... y'know...
So maybe instead of him completely adjusting to us, we should try to also adjust to him. He is just who he is; an energetic Alaskan husky with separation anxiety. So maybe we should just accept that and work with that, using his inbred skills to our mutual joy and benefit.
So he is staying and we will take a closer look at what HE needs in order to fit in and thrive. One thing we already did, was get him his own "backpack", so that will mean much more woodstime. I am also looking into a decent sled and harness for him, hoping we can afford one. We also need to fence off a part of the garden, so he can be out, when he wants to. We are even thinking about getting a buddy for him! Yes, extending our pack and who knows? We might just end up with our own "sledteam"! A trip to the library provided me with some readingmaterial for the very basics.

Yes, the season of gardening has come to an end, but with the gift of self grown food, too. Our vegetablegarden did not turn out a lot this year. How could it? But what it gave us was good! And made us feel satisfied.

We were able to harvest a few veggies and a handful of freshly picked green beans, a bushel of small carrots and a surprising yield of potatoes formed the basis for one good meal. Bacon, sausages, fresh spinach, herbs and shredded cheese on top did the rest. The kale and the other half of the potatoes and typical dish we had a lot back in the Netherlands; boerenkool stamppot met rookworst (kale/potato mash with smoked sausage). The sausage was sent to us by a Dutch friend from long ago, who also moved to Sweden, unfortunately 500km away from us to the south.
However the garden gave us something equally valuable too; a lot of lessons learned.
Slugs were a problem this wet summer. The beans and courgettes were devoured. So we have to take measures against that next year; no place for them to shelter during the day near the growing beds and deterring plants in those. The carrots need to be thinned out even more rigorously in order to grow big. Broccoli should not be sown before midsummer, otherwise it will go into flower real quick.
The main surprise were the potatoes though. In spring we had a handful of shrivelled and sprouting, ecologically grown potatoes. I just cut them in half, stuck them into the ground and only weeded the worst of the weeds. The result? More than half a bucket of the finest potatoes you can think of! The species in question are called "maestro"...