Sunday, October 23, 2016

The future is looming

It is a grey and drizzly day. Trees are leafless or just about, no weather the dogs or we enjoy and the chickens will not go outside either.
Lately I've been watching the media and a picture is emerging that leaves me rather upset. No, frightened is more like it.
The US is moving material to Norway, fighter jets to Iceland and the Netherlands plus more and more troops deploying elsewhere around the globe, especially around the edges of Russia. Russia on the other hand, by heads of Putin, is continuously warning us, via the media, that we are being steered towards an armed conflict on a massive scale. Declaring no fly zones in Syria, the US of course not accepting. The Russian navy sailing toward Syria. The situation there is spinning out of control and a direct confrontation is all but inevitable.... And if that isn't enough, then there's always the South Chinese Sea, where once again the US is present an area with a military volatile situation, where surprisingly the Philippines change sides, turning the cold shoulder on the US.
The financial systems are failing us and about to implode (impending bankruptcy of the Deutsche Bank ring a bell?) and what better way to distract people from that rather uncomfortable bit of "news" than to create chaos by swarming mainland Europe with refugees and to beat the drums of war? Western mainstream media is all too eager to spread the word of terrorist threats everywhere and, here in Sweden, not a day goes by where the Russian threat is not being mentioned either. Many a blatant lie these media spread has been unravelled and proven false in alternative media, but the general populous is very willing to ignore those, almost instantly labelling them "conspiracy theorists". End of discussion there......

I don't have to draw out the geopolitical picture as it is at the moment. Those smart and brave (or dumb) enough can see that for themselves. the answers are out there for those willing to look and see..... The US, commanding it's NATO minions to follow, is steering us toward a war by cornering Russia, littering the globe with military bases, taunting the Chinese in the South Chinese Sea and generally making enemies, wherever their boots touch the ground. No, long in advance, so they create an excuse to send in those boots in the first place.
The tone of voice by US politicians and high military ranking officers is clear:"We will beat Russia"... Question is:"Why should you?", but that's a different matter altogether and one that will become insignificant, once the curtains fall.

What is keeping me preoccupied these days is:" And then what?"
What if, no when, war brakes out? I can not speak for others, but when I look at Sweden I get quite nervous. Sweden, having no military worth mentioning, despite starting drafting in conscripts again next year (which should be saying something too!!) is utterly defenceless. A collapse within a week is the general estimation. Any major deployment of troops by either side would be met with very little resistance. And yet that is not my main concern. My main concern is its total dependence on import, when it comes to daily life. According to several sources Sweden's level of self sufficiency is about 45-50%, but 100%  dependency when it comes to fossil fuel based resources. And Sweden is easily cut off from the outside world, when it comes to bulk transport. And that is its achilles heel; transportation.
In case of such a cut-off, and in a war scenario that would be pretty much instantly, food- and fuel supplies would dwindle quite fast or become seized by the government for military and emergency services. Just a 50% reduction of oil import alone would mean a famine within weeks.
Any outside help that might make it over here, would end up in one of the three major cities, which house roughly 2.2 million of the total population of 9.6. That would mean supplies would probably never even leave the cities. I have no idea what an average person would need to live in weight, but it would take a daily armada just to feed each and everyone of those cities.
Even if, by some miraculous event, supplies were to leave the cities, there'd be mobs waiting for them just a few miles down the road, inland. So those inland would be left to fend for themselves and there aren't many who know how to. Even the vast majority of farmers depend on fuel and imported seed and fertilizer for their crops. Shops would be empty within days (hours more likely). Anyone remember the food riots of Venezuela in 2015?? And their issues are still not sorted! The problems continue in a country that has plenty of resources, but where the government has sold out its own people, just as it is happening here.... Where people on the fringes of society are pushed over the edge.
Taken during the venezuela lootings

But then the next blow will come: electricity. Although Sweden does have its own hydropower plants, windmill parks and nuclear reactors, these can not provide enough. Not by a longshot. So any remaining refrigerated or frozen food would spoil.... fast. The same might go for medicine. Some of it has to be kept refrigerated, but all of it has to be transported.

If there is anything our current society is totally dependent on, then it is those 2; transportation and electricity. And one single event just might knock out those 2; a severe winter storm or a flood might do it, but then people could still rely on help from the outside, since it would most likely be pretty local. But what if an entire country got cut off?? Especially a country like this one, highly vulnerable, completely helpless and picking the wrong friends. Social order would collapse in the blink of an eye. Then what? United we stand, divided we fall and this country appears to have completely lost any form of homogeneity, of community.

I am considering 2 options; the static one and the mobile one. Both have their distinct (dis)advantages.
The first one allows for stocking up on food and other supplies, having a vegetable garden and livestock and house a family in relative comfort. However it might just as easy attract unwanted attention, making you an easy target. You'd need a decent community, willing to help and defend each other. Plus it would be very hard to leave behind if the situation calls for it. As I mentioned before, a sense of community is all but absent in the village we live in, but we're working hard on that. Another issue is that we are the only ones seriously growing food and having some form of livestock here, making us stand out quite a bit.
The latter one makes it easier to adapt to the situation, simply by moving away. But it would mean quite a logistic endeavour, involving a functioning car and above all, fuel. If either fails, (and fuel might quickly become scarce) you are stranded. And a moving, working car probably would make a nice target as well. Lesser numbers also make a far less effective defense. And winter especially makes the latter option a whole lot less attractive, despite having a large, heated tent and field beds.

As a matter of fact I have just finished a book dealing with such a scenario resembling my visions and it confirms all I have feared, but also brought some new insights. Despite it being fiction it is very realistic. And grim.

I worry...
Yeah, I really worry....

Will my kids belong to the generation that has to rebuild it all? If so, I sure do hope they will do a much, much better job then the ones before them did. because those really fucked up.
Either way, when everything does go belly up, we're in a world of hurt big time and my vivid imagination paints a picture that is none too pretty...

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Recapturing lessons and an early new year's resolution!

There were a good handful of posts that were in the making over the past few weeks, each with a handful of thoughts jumbled together. I will try and recapture the majority and essence of some of those into this one. This one is about changing seasons and new year's resolutions in october (bet I'm the first for the new year! Hah!), so actually new season resolutions.

The season of golden brown and shades of grey.
This year we experienced a phenomenal Swedish indian summer. Temperatures were well above average, much sun and far too less rain! It has been really dry all year and the lake waterlevels show it; 30-50cm below their usual level. Streams run dry regularly.
This draught might become a problem next spring too. The bees have settled for winter and I closed up the hive as much as possible. In preparation for winter I have been feeding them sugar or at least tried to. They wouldn't really take it, but supplies in their combs are not excessive either. Draught means far less nectar and thus honey. I did all I could do, so now I just have to wait and see, hoping they'll make it until spring. I fear that I might have to order new populations though....
The usual autumn morning fogs have been few and far between, also much less than usual and so far we only had a few occasional night frosts.Yesterday was a glorious, warm and sunny day, but today was far less favorable. The winds has changed north by north east and is chilling to the bone. Sky's grey and the mind wonders.........

The same location on 3 different occasions

It is also the season of death and dying. A few weeks ago I found this dragonfly by the side of the road, which was actually dying. It had spent all its energy and I could just pick it up and look at it. It tried to move around a bit, but it died in my hands and just fell to the ground, when I flipped my hand. It is sad to see such a beautiful and fascinating creature go to waste, but its kind will be back next year.

2016 is a year in which some significant things have been made clear to me or so I think so.
During the previous years I had been dreaming about becoming economically "independent" by starting a company producing and selling honey and seedlings or by starting a biological farm, commercially growing and producing vegetables and maybe even meat. As it all turned out it was not meant to be. And I think I see the reason for that now.
For starters the whole beekeeping-thing. The way I would have done that would be the absolute wrong way. The way which had economy in focus, not ecology. Conventional beekeeping is not the right way and I had to learn that for myself and by myself.
As for the farm I was simply aiming wayyy to high. Ambition and planning (dreaming) will not get you there all by themselves. Knowledge and discipline are equally required. Which I had none of, despite me thinking I had. So much for being cocky....
The reappearance of bushcraft into my life, by means of the meet and the Norway-trip, was to show me that I had lost or at least was losing the deeper connection to the natural world and I was to be reminded that I have to relearn and find that again.
And to top things off, the trip to Norway did not just give me fresh mountain air and good company, but also the insight of what to do and how to do it. Last night, the wife, our girls and me were talking about this and my oldest daughter jokingly said that in this picture, this cooperation that is growing, she would take the role as a hunter. She had just come back from the archery club, having taken up shooting her bow after the summer break, And I was a bit baffled by that, since it was exactly the conclusion that I had made earlier for a possible scenario. Right now it looks like I am going to develop into a farmer and homesteader with all the skills needed, my wife is the teacher, who will try to become a skilled and approved teacher in both wood- and metalworking, my oldest daughter expressing her interest in hunting and archery, but also in wanting to learn hands on the killing and butchering of animals for food. Our youngest daughter does show signs of having an affinity with plants and growing them, so that might develop. She also loves animals, but not unlike other kids. It seems to be more of a genuine interest in them instead of cuddling and petting them.
In real life this means no more halfcooked measures or faffing about. This means I will focus on growing crops, keeping bees and lifestock and taking care of the produce. No more wasting time on a full time job, just doing the occasional stand in to support our economics where and when needed. This means my wife doing her halftime job as a teacher and getting a degree as one besides that. And guide our kids, where their interests lead them.

However it sometimes does feel like I or we are not making much progress, but another chat with my youngest daughter, on our way home, put things into perspective once more. We had just went and bought 7 more hens and 1 cock and we got talking about how we have expanded our life stock this year. We had 1 dog and 2 cats, but added 1 more dog, 1 more cat, 14 hens, 8 cocks (of which 3 are still alive) and we got 2 bee populations plus all the equipment that comes with all of those. Not at all bad, I thought!
Looking at our crops and harvest I'd have to say that the biggest yield was learning by failure. Not only were our kale and cabbages devastated by caterpillars, were our carrots and garlic very small due to insufficient thinning and compact soil, but also were our potatoes mostly rotten and riddled with small, white larvae or worms of some kind. All potatoes in every plot were infected, so I have the suspicion that they were infested even before they got into the ground. The 3 species I planted came together in 1 cardboard box.
An estimated 30% of the potato crop was usable, some 50% was, as said, rotten or infested and the remaining ones were green. Our own fault for not properly covering them during growth season.
The few night frosts we had finished off pretty much all plants still left standing, of which quite a few did not make it all the way to ripening; sunflowers, pumpkins, corn and above all the poquito beans. All would have been good if the season would have been 1 month longer, so that means sowing earlier.
The apples I dried ended up on the compost heap. The first batch had not been dry enough and when we put all of them into a pot, the first started to mold and infected the rest. For next year I will make a rack to dry them by air. Takes a lot longer, but I think the results will be much better.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Norwaytrip 2016 - Part 1, an Odd place

Well, it finally happened. After 2 years I met Odd again.

Packing was a bit tricky. Weather forecast was good, but a bit cold. Around +6C during the day and around or slightly under freezing at night. I always find that a hard range to dress for. It is very easy to under- or overdress, meaning being cold or sweaty. That means layering, thin gloves and ditto knitted hat. Fortunately no precipitation was forecast.

The possibilities of rifle shooting and a foxhunt did not seem to materialize after the initial planning. The firing range was closed and a nearby, ongoing moose hunt messed up the foxhunt. And I thought it was just as well. If there are no plans, there are no expectations either. No we could go out, hang out and do whatever we felt like, giving us the freedom to adapt to whatever came our way.
However only a day or so in advance Odd told me we could use the range after all! Yess.... I had hoped for that. It's been more than 25 years since I last sent a round down range and it is kind of fun and relaxing to do so.

On friday morning I packed up the final things and after saying goodbye to the homefront I went on my way at about 13:00. Had a long drive ahead; at least 5-5,5 hrs. I was about 500 meters from home, when the phone rang. The wife.... I had forgotten my civvy, non-bushy coat and cap... So I turned around and got those. What a way to start.....

The drive to Odd's place in Norway went without too many notable things; golden autumn sun, glistening lakes, rolling hills, forests in autumn colors and the grey ribbon of asphalt in front of me. Quite boring really... ;-)
I arrived att Odd's place safe and sounds and got to meet his family. One just can't show up empty handed and what better way to show ones appreciation than to give them something of yourself; homemade jams, fresh eggs and dried apples.
In return I was treated to a large plate full of bacon and eggs. Lots of bacon... That refuels a depleted system!! We spent the evening chatting and catching up, while sharing a real beer. I befriended their dog Balder and Odd showed me the rifles and presented me with a present of his own; a mooseantler pendant with the rune Algiz in it, representing the moose. But it also means protection.
After a good nights sleep I or we awoke early (at 06:10!) to the calls of their youngest daughter and we spent the morning drinking coffee and waiting for the family morning routine to take its course, before we would head off to the local surplus store. They advertised with a sale of wool insoles and I have been wanting some of those for ages! While we waited we watched a squirrel and a magpei playing in the trees and bushes of Odd's garden. We think it was play, since allthough they were chasing each other, there was no aggression present and they even sat next to each other. Amazing behaviour.... I also gave Odd a little advice on how to use his garden for cropgrowing, since he had asked for that. Just before 10 we hit the road, drove to the surplusstore, roamed about, found the insoles and continued our way with 5 pair following me home. The almost 3 hour drive up north went by without incidents. We had lovely weather and the back country roads are a joy to drive over and early in the afternoon we arrived at Odd's parents place to leave the dog there. He doesn't handle bangs very well, as many dogs tend to do. Then it was off to the shooting range!

There Odd had to adjust his scope to the rifle, a Tikka .222 rem if I am correct. He turned it this way and that, but couldn't get it exactly right and I walked up and down the range quite a few times. I enjoyed the scenery a lot though, as the previous pictures might've shown. Spent the first 2 rounds fired sitting in the ditch, right in front of the target, but it turned out that that was prohibited.... I wonder why..?? It is a tad intimidating to sit there with bullets passing overhead, safe or not. The calibration would not work out as well as he had wanted to, being always off to the left and too low. At first we thought it was the crosswind, blowing from our left, but even after compensating for that, we were still off.
After he had adjusted the scope as good as it possible could, I was allowed to send some rounds down range myself!! It had been more then 25 years, the type of rifle is very different back then and I never used a scope before. I am quite pleased with my results nonetheless!!
And after that Odd brought out the heavy artillery; buckshot. After he had fired a couple of rounds on the claypigeons I threw, and hitting them, it was my turn.
Every single claypigeon made it to the next round, alive and well, but I had a blast trying the practicing ammo. The real deal would be a tad more hefty.


After the firing range we drove back to Odd's parents in order to pick up Balder, but we were not going to drive off just like that. No sir... We had to come in, sit down and have coffee.... and homemade applepie, which was still warm... and icecream... The family got caught up in conversation and I tried to follow. Not a chance.... I had thought that I, because I learned Swedish, would be able to follow Norsemen during a conversation and I had been proven dead wrong. And now I was being treated to a local dialect. Like hearing people from a different part of the world! Still I enjoyed the company, being invited into their home and being treated to coffee, cake and icecream. Wouldn't want to have missed it!!
The following drive up to the cabin would take about half an hour over a winding, climbing gravel road. Amazing views all around. Good thing there was little to no possibility to stop and take pictures, otherwise it might have taken a couple of hours to get to the cabin. However there was one occasion where I just couldn't resist.....

The only shower we saw during our stay.
Was it snow? Was it rain? We settled on snow, melting on its way down, turning into rain....

Eventually we got to the cabin and after we unpacked and got installed I spent quite some time at being amazing at the location.... So much to see and the fresh, clear vibes I picked up where exhilarating and invigorating. As if the stress and fatigue of driving for many hours simply vanished. Which of course it didn't really, as my pillow would prove me later that evening, but still....
Odd claimed the kitchen as his domain for the time being and since it was too small to rummage around in with 2, I let him do the dinnerthing, while I scouted out the area. I was being treated to the most awe inspiring sunset and scenery.
For dinner there would be something that many in the western world might fill with dread; whale meat. Norway still catches whale, which they view upon as a resource and, while it might be environmentally questionable, I thought of it as a culinary and cultural experience. And I am sooo glad I did! It was delicious. Lean, dark and very tasty meat. There's no way around it. Topped off with a kind of gravy, accompanied by mashed potatoes and brussel sprouts. And a beer.... of course...

View from the kitchen window.

After dinner I spent some time star gazing, but not for too long. Temperatures were dropping pretty fast and we kept several stoves burning to get the cabin to warm up to comfortable levels. The star gazing turned to flame gazing with conversation gradually slowing down and why should you talk, if that would mean filling the air with noise? 
With another beer, a crackling fire, Balder snuggled up on my lap I allowed to let my mind wonder until it went empty. Wish I had my wife with me there, though..... and it was very quiet without teens and large dogs around....

Norwaytrip 2016 - part 2, an early and frosty morning

I took so many pictures that I wanted to show that I needed to split the whole report in 3 parts.
It was a very early morning. We were awake at about 6:30 and up 5 minutes later. I slept rather well and was asleep almost as soon as I hit my pillow (yes, I did bring mine) last night.
There had been an intermezzo during the night, in which Odd stumbled around, while uttering muffled curses. Turned out he had hit the underside of his foot on the edge of a board, precisely on the soft spot between toes and the balls of his foot, resulting in a pretty big cut. I feared for the planned hike, but he taped it all up pretty well and was going to give it a try anyway!
In order for Odd to get breakfast ready... and not get in the way in his claimed domain, I spent the early hours of a new and only just awakening day outside around the cabin.
The night frost had decorated the landscape in a sugar-like coating, the roof of the cabin being completely white. A fresh, crispness in the air that just dissolves the cobwebs of sleepiness, making you alert, energised and strangely content with the world and yourself. One of the many faces of actual happiness...

The way Odd saw the day getting nearer...

And the way I saw it arrive and regaining territory.

Norwaytrip 2016 - part 3, Storvola hike

After breakfast, again with copious amounts of eggs and bacon. Especially bacon, we started preparing for the hike up Storvola, being 1198m. high. Odd explained that we needed to take the track around it and looking up the slopes I understood why. Nothing but rocks and boulders piled on to each other. The green color of them is lichen and when frost covered becomes very, very slippery.... Ask me how I know...
The path is very uneven, mostly rocks, here and there filled with peat between the gaps, but most of that is actually worn away. According to Odd that's good, because you use every possible muscle in your legs to move over that and he will not be using the area of the wound constantly. The scenery is amazing. I've never been up this high and, as Odd says it, you'll find great skies here. Ain't that the truth...

Now the thing about the next picture is, that there was this rowan bush/tree. In itself not all that unusual were it not for the fact that it was a) well above the treeline, b) still full in leaf and and c) green! The surrounding junipers, normally very low to the ground growing up here, were more than kneehigh! Odd had the suspicion that there might be a warm spot under the tree. A well with warmer water or something like that. It was a great example of a microclimate, since it was just this one spot, maybe 2 or 3 meters across.

Roughly halfway up and just under the very summit, there is a small shelter, where we stopped for coffee. Excellent time for an early lunch too. And a good thing we were there early, because as soon as we had had our coffee and food, people started showing up. We decided to "break camp" and head up toward the summit. Looked like a pretty steep climb anyway. You quickly learn to pay attention to where you're going in this terrain; directly in front of your feet, a few feet ahead of you to see where you're be at next and further up the trail to see what's there and to pick the best tracks.
We also noted large flocks of thrushes passing over head, right through the gap we were in. We figured that they were migrating, using this gap as a landmark toward the Norwegian coast, where it is milder and to head south from there.

Now what would a trip report be without the obligatory coffebreak fotoshoot, right?

As it turned out, it wasn't all that bad. Sometimes the going was a bit rougher, but in general we made good and relatively easy headway. Then we reached the top.... What can I say? I was in awe. Even though this is a relatively low top, I felt as if on top of the world. The highest I'd ever been on my own feet. And traversing this kind of terrain is quite a bit different than loafing around in the woods. It is more of a high, really. A buzz....
After the initial awe had worn off a bit, we already started making new plans. The next picture shows Rensdalsölen in the distance. Wouldn't it be great to go up there? According to Odd it would be a 2x2 daytrip; 2 up and 2 down.

Of course I had to add my own rock to the top.
As I came down, I casually said that I had left my mark. According to Odd you'd have to pee against it to do that. So.....

Here you can see the landscape into which the cabin is imbedded.
The cabin is to the lower left......
And here to the lower right....
Words as superfluous........

A really suiting picture of my host!
At first I thought the army pants he wears hada funny color and that the yellowish green was quite a bit off...
Look and judge for yourself how wrong I was!!

After the hike we returned to the cabin and saw that the flag was raised, meaning people were "at home". Turned out Odd's parents had come up and brought with them applepie and had made some fresh, hot coffee!! We sat in the sun for about an hour, but then it was time to pack, say goodbye to them and head back south again.
The trip to Odd's place went smoothly again and the evening was pretty quiet. Exercise and mountain air do that to a man. We hit the sack relatively early and the next day saw an early rise again. The time had come to head home myself. This 5 hour drive went without incidents as well, the golden sun, the glistening lakes, the autumn colored forest, the rolling hills and the grey ribbon..... and I was home just after lunchtime..... It all went too fast....