Sunday, May 21, 2017

Will it ever be summer?

Spring sure has been taking its time this year. The coldest spring in over 150 years I heard some say! And I can believe it. The first half of may has past and I do not think we could fill one week with daytime temperatures reaching double digits in celsius.
But then, as I browsed a bit through earlier posts, I came across a post from exactly 2 years ago. And there too was the mention of a cold, grey and windy spring. So maybe it is not all that abnormal at all, but still.... the coldest in 150 years....
But improvement is on its way! Temperatures are on the rise and before we know it we will be complaining about grass growing at astonishing speed! And it is about time too. In 4 weeks time the kids will be having their summer holiday and it still felt like early spring.
All we need now is a good amount of rain, even though plenty would complain about that too in no time. Local water levels in lakes and flows have dropped severely already and in many parts of Sweden warnings about water shortages are being issued. Some places already put a ban on using water for watering the garden and such! In order to prevent problems with that in the future we have started to take precautions; we got ourselves a large watertank, which will be filled with lake- and/or rainwater. I was even thinking greywater, but that would involve some serious rearranging of plumbing, so I'll put that off for the time being. But it might materialise in the future....

And then.... it happened!
We got hit by a sudden wave of warmth!
The wind shifted and the temperatures rose to well over 20C overnight with a very high humidity. And all the green stuff just went *BOOM* An explosion of green all around us. I swear I could see the grass grow! As if all the greens had been bottling up the growing energy, waiting for these circumstances to happen and now unleashing that energy. What a transformation.
And not just the greens, bugs and beasties too. There are insects, flying, crawling, creeping all over the place. I am not glad to report the ants are back too...

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

What is done is done

Things are set in motion at our place.

One of the major jobs to be done around here, probably the biggest, has been completed; the sewage system. And in the process my favorite place in our garden has been absolutely destroyed. But....
This new system is a lot better for our immediate livingarea and surfacewater. No more waste gets released into either of them, which is a massive win in itself.
A good deal of trees had to be taken down. More than the anticipated 3-5. We ended up with 11 downed trees. 2 of those were at my request, one being a fullygrown rowan which dominated the entrance toward the house and which had started to die. Bark had started to fall off and a large crack all along the length of the trunk became visible. The other being the large pine dominating pretty much everything, both view to and from the house. But..... all that wood will be warming us on many a cold winter's day. However before that will come to pass I will need to acquire new skills; how to handle a chainsaw.
Another plus is that now our house is much more exposed to sunlight, which most likely will be most noticeable on sunny, and thus cold, winterdays as well. Now the sun can warm the stone lower half of the house and blaze right into our current livingroom without the shadow of that large pine ruining things. That will cut down on heating. Besides we hope to have the greenhouse ready before coming autumn, so the effect will be greatly enhanced.
Another benefit is the addition of at least 40m² more or less useable planting area onto which we have sown a variation of cover crop plants and bee friendly plants. The soil has been greatly disturbed and needs to resettle. We need to recreate soil life and feed it with biomass.

But right now we are "mourning" the loss of that special, little place.....

Saturday, May 6, 2017

A word from one of my idols.....

an icon in the world of nature, preservation, knowledge and passion of and for all of Mother earth's beings...

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Foodgrowing season has started!!

And so it has begun.....
Greenhouses are up and ready. Or at least were until we had some pretty strong winds. The greenhouse we bought last year from Denmark got blown over and the frame mangled. The 2 bottom bars, connected with a simple, longer bolt were ripped out. The receiving end proved to be very weak, but that we already learned last season. The tubes were badly bent on one side. Also did the foil get torn up in one corner. All in all this greenhouse has turned out to be one disappointment. Low quality from one end to the other.
But as the saying goes, if you pay peanuts, you get monkeys....

We had a couple of very fine days these last few days; sunny and nice temperatures. It really makes one come to life again. Energy levels go up and flabby muscles get worked again... However this fine weather has a downside. We are already facing the very real possibility of a drought. Lake waterlevels are at a low and there is no sign of any rain. This is something we need to look into; a proper watersupply for gardening purposes.

But we have finished the first step of the season; sowing!!
2 days of filling pots and planning what to sow where and how much... And going through all these little bags is so much fun; dreaming about what it will turn out like... All sort of cabbages and beans, flowers and herbs. The herb-section is pretty extended, since I am going to try and grow them for tea!

And now the work is done. All I need to do now is water them and wait. Although I still have some empty pots....

And in a week or 2 we'll be sowing directly into the soil as well. By that time it should have warmed up enough. The cats are already checking the location. Probably laying in the sun on a bed of hay is wonderful. Or is it the hint of chicken manure that clings to it??

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

May and spring jumped on us!

Finally may came and with it spring!!
However during the final period of april we did have some occasional bouts of fine weather and we tried to make the most of that, despite the icy wind that never seemed to stop, only to change direction.

An intricate pattern of pieces of reed, blown into the shore of one of the lakes and a miniature daffodil, a remnant of my time as churchyard gardener. They were a lot bigger, when I took them home, but here in the garden they grow no taller than 4-5cm.

During april's last week we had "some¨ unexpected guests. Some really is not the right word however. We saw a huge gathering of migrating birds. Apparently they had gathered in this area to wait for warmer weather to come in, so they could journey further north. We had large groups of thrushes of several species, and finches too. Lots and lots of finches! The noise they made was earsplitting at times and when they started calling each other in the morning..... Now that was one heck of a wake up call. Just not at 04:00am.
But now they all have gone. All but the robin that lives in our garden and the loons that inhabit the lakes, their calls echoing across the surface, answering one another. And new summer residents have come in too! I saw the first few swallows dash through the air the other day.....

But spring did come at last.....
But before that we had the traditional walpurgis night or valborgsmässa. We decided to visit the place where we went the first time and where we used to live in our early Sweden days in order to catch up with old friends.

Between that and slaughtering roosters, this sudden arrival of sun and warmth initiated a sudden burst of energy and activity! Besides getting our greenhouses ready to finally start sowing, inspecting our garden for hidden and growing surprises. For one thing we, quite spontaneously, decided to visit one of the local farms, where they sell their own produce and have loads of livestock. The one thing I was interested in, besides being plain curious, were their African dwarf goats. I just had to see them for real.
And guess what..... We think a few of those just would fit in with us! Looking at their size and the size of the area we had intended for them and the size of the area they had, we figure there'd be more than enough room for 3 of them. We would have to buy additional food anyway. So another project will be undertaken over the course of the next few weeks/months!

But the fun did not stop there. Oh no!
The visit to said farm inspired us to come up with more ideas. As we sat there, having coffee and waffles with marmalade and whipped cream, I noticed they had vines growing along a south facing wooden facade.... without any protection! So I asked what kind it was. A baltisk staketdruva (or Vitis labrusca) was the answer. A blue grape, suitable for consumption as fruit, not wine. Exactly what I wanted! Now I found a grape species I can have outside the glass greenhouse! We have a nice, south facing stonewall, sheltered from blistering winter gales, so the vine should thrive. So we are getting one of those as well. Oh by the way..... 2 hazel shrubs are on order too....

Another thing that inspired us, was their so-called farstu; a semi-enclosed area in front of the frontdoor. We had already been thinking about having one, since they make ideal places to take off dirty shoes, boots or working clothes, before you come into the house. and theirs was just the style we had in mind.

All in all a very good 1st of may!
Hope everyone will have a good season and summer!!

Monday, May 1, 2017

The tale of 2+2 cocks

It finally happened again.... We really needed to remove 2 cocks from our flock.
It had become obvious that Dr. Watson was a very weak cock. An outcast, constantly being bullied and harassed by Weasly. He was no longer part of the flock, sat by himself in a corner of the coup or roamed the garden all alone. He also was weak physically, not making a healthy, lively impression no more.
Weasley on the other hand was a splendid cock, full of vigour and colour. Unfortunately he had a meanstreak. Not only did he bully and harass Dr. Watson, but also Sirius and the other chickens. He would not tolerate anyone near him, when feeding and we often caught him attacking the others apparently out of the blue, causing a lot of stress within the flock. When they were out however, it was Sirius who kept an eye of everyone and stood on watch. Weasley did not show much signs of vigilance. A cock that was no contribution, except aesthetically. And I do not do aesthetics..... Well, not much, when the prime requirements are not fulfilled.
Life in the country isn't always fun, so the last day of april had a bit of a sad note.....

The procedure we followed this time was quite different from the first time. Now a quick and decisive blow to the back of head, while we held the animals up. Then we waited for the eyes to close and the animal to go limp. With the hatched the head was then severed, but still the body responded. Holding on firmly is still required, but it ended soon.
Then we plucked them. This is made much easier, when first dunked in a bucket with hot water (60C) and by removing small tufts of feathers at a time. Cleaning out the inserts was practically the same...
I have to say that this time I was not as shaken as the first time, but I still am reluctant to do this.
But this slaughtering session also had a lot of upsides. Dr. Watson was put out of his misery and he really was miserable as we found out when slaughtering him. His weakness showed in that he not only had footscab, but also lice. Around his neck feathers had felted together too. It would only have been a matter of time until he would have gotten sick. With Weasley gone, we really hope peace and quiet will be restored and levels of stress will be reduced.
On a practical note my wife has now a decent collection of feathers to use for her angel making. She will be using those feathers as wings. Our oldest daughter had decided to join us and watch how we killed and plucked Weasley. She then helped plucking him, so a first hands on experience for her! And she did not chicken out. She plucked some beautiful feathers for herself as well. We sat there and looked at the feathers; their colours, their structure and we were amazed. We also learned how new feathers grow as we found some. They start out as paintbrushes... sort of, a tiny brush of filaments in a shaft. Very hard to pluck, so next time I wait until they are done moulting.

But May came with happy tidings!
The weather improved considerably! A not unsubstantial rise in temperature and sunshine!!!
And I made arrangements to get two new cocks. Same race as we have now; hedemora and 8 weeks old. May I present......

Malfoy and Lupin
(can you tell we've got a Potter-thing here??)

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The inbetween season

While I was cutting firewood I saw a couple of chickenhawks today. After I heard one call I started looking around to see where the calls came from and spotted one circling overhead, gliding effortlessly and I had the distinct feeling it was watching our chicken coop. Then I heard another one call somewhere behind me! I wheeled around, just to see that one attacking a magpie! That one got away, but the hawk involved was bigger then the one I was looking at. That means no free roaming for our chickens for a while! And that after they are allowed to do so again after the bird flu "epidemic" (which was more of a panicky reaction to a totally blown out of proportion string of events). And speaking of chickens.... they act kind of weird, whenever they hear us opening the door and walk into the garden....
Unfortunately 2 of the 3 cocks have to go. One, Weasley, is a mean son of a bitch and the other, Dr Watson, turned out to be a weak cock. He is not only being bullied all the time, but a complete outcast too. Those two will make a good "cock au vin" someday (soon).

Spring is inching its way across the land.
But winter is not giving up. Not just yet. We have had a few days of sunshine and warmer weather, but these quickly became outdone by a new spell of cold weather. Temperatures barely reaching the plus side of the Celsius Scale during the day, dipped well below during the night and we were treated to snow showers. Not many, but still. Last year I started sowing on this day, but this year I will wait a little longer. It simply is too cold.
Gardening is slow, nothing much to do yet but the lakes are all but icefree. That could mean that the frost has left the ground enough to start work on that; finishing the fencing around the garden, so the dogs can be outside... And shed their hair there!! It is a hairy mess ínside, because of it.
It gives me plenty of time to think over the projects for this summer. As said there is the fencing and we need a doghouse too. In a month or two we (hopefully) will be done with exchanging the sewagesystem and in order to get that going we need to take down a handful of mature trees. That means a lot of sawing and cutting. Splitting and stacking too, but that can be put on hold for a while. There is also the greenhouse that will be built onto the southern wall and we want to reuse the timber framing from the garden shed for that. It has to be taken down anyway in order to have room to manoeuvre when doing the sewage-job. And if that's not enough there will be the sowing and planting and, depending on the outcome of the sewage-job (and the spread of the lilies of the valleys we have), we will be building a goathouse and -pen. That means more building and fencing.
And for bad weather days we have some plans too!! The heatingsystem for one. By the looks of it we finally will be able to get and install 2 hotwatertanks, meaning decent showers for all, a steady temperature in the house during winter and, unfortunately, a higher consumption of wood. But if we simultaneously install a batterypack and solarcell charging system, we will have independent heating and hot water supply year round. With any luck taxreturns will cover those costs.  Another project will be the reversing of the livingroom/kitchen arrangement. Those will swap places, meaning more day/sunlight during winter in the kitchen, where we reside most and less in the livingroom, which we use mostly during evenings anyway. Kitchen will be a lot bigger too, so more room for all of us, reducing the risk of bumping into one another or getting in each other's way. But these are projects that can be put on hold for those late autumn days, too. Practically everything we need for that we already have, except for some new plumbing.
How are we all going to do that? No idea just yet. The whole sewage business will be taken care of by a professional, so not much for us to worry about. We need to take care of the removal of the trees and I will not try to do that alone! The same goes for the installation of hotwatersystem, so all that means a lot less work to tackle by ourselves.

Eggs died with red cabbage, onionpeels, kurkuma and paprika..
In the meantime I hope you all had a good easter. Kids are having their  spring break/easter holidays and already are bored witless and I am waiting to start the sowing. It simply has been too cold for that, but apparently we will see the nightfrosts disappear. The lakes are all but icefree too now, which would mean the topsoil will be workable. I ordered a bunch of seeds; tomatoes, cucumber, but mainly herbs. Herbs for tea-making! Given our love for coffee and tea, we want to give making our own herb teas a try. Too bad we can't grow our own coffee though....

But before the spring break came, there was a day of open doors at the school of our youngest daughter and my wife, who is now a teacher there. Such an occasion is not only good to see what's going on in school or meeting other parents. It sometimes holds pleasant surprises too. I could not pass by the schoollibrary ( of course) and behold..... they were selling off "old" books. You can see where this is going, can't you......? Yes, it cost me dearly. A whopping 15sek. For the whole lot! A good thing our to-be livingroom will be divided into a tv/launch half and a library/study half. We are running out of bookshelfspace!

Other books have found their way into our own library this year too....
The first were part of a great deal (real cheap) including some military history books (not relevant here) and the latter I got to support a local writer, despite having read them, so I went for the pocket versions... A couple more moved over here, but these are subject of a next post, since they proved to be of a very significant importance.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

An update on vacuum sealed food

Since we have taken up vacuum sealing food quite recently, there still is a lot we need to learn about it. Scouring the internet for information on the subject, I came across the following article and thought it might be a good idea to share it with you.
It comes from and was written by Tess Pennington.
if you follow the link you will find more information about oxygen absorbers and related topics too.

Vacuum sealing, or ROP (Reduced Oxygen Packaging) slows down the process of spoilage by reducing atmospheric oxygen, and creates an anaerobic environment that  limits the growth of aerobic bacteria or fungi, and prevents the evaporation of volatile components. Vacuum sealing is often used in combination with other packaging and food processing techniques.
As effective as this food storage source seems, it could put your health at risk. There are certain types of bacteria that prefer low oxygen environments and will grow on foods that have been vacuum sealed. Knowing the dangers that these bacteria possess can help you avoid them and keep your food storage safe.

Botulism and Listeria Monocytogenes

Even in an oxygen-depleted environment, Anaerobic organisms can proliferate, potentially causing food safety problems. Botulism and Listeria monocytogenes are examples of pathogenic bacteria that cause food borne illnesses from growing and thriving in an anaerobic environment. Moreover, these bacteria have the capacity of growing at a faster rate in vacuum sealed foods due to the oxygen-free environment as well as the fact that these bacteria are not in competition with other spoilage bacteria. These bacteria often do not produce noticeable changes in the foods; therefore, relying on sight, smell and taste would not be helpful. However, only a tiny amount of these spores (a few nanograms) need to be present in order for them to be deadly.
According to the FDA, the following are dangers associated with vacuum sealing food sources:
  • Facultative bacteria (most foodborne pathogens) grow under aerobic & anaerobic conditions
  • Most spoilage organisms are no longer “indicators” for temperature abuse
  • Extended shelf life could allow “slow growers” to reach high numbers under refrigerated conditions
  • Secondary barriers such as low pH or aw are not always possible with cook chill and sous vide packaging
  • Potential for temperature abuse at retail and in the home is great
  • Cooking and fermentation destroy most vegetative cells but spore formers survive

Safety Guidelines for Vacuum Sealing Food

If you have  taken proper steps in preparing your food in a clean and uncontaminated environment, then this should not be a problem. However, if there is any question about the safety, then err on the side of caution and do not vacuum pack the food, as you would be creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria.
Follow these guidelines to properly vacuum seal food:
  1. Vacuum sealing food does not replace the need to pressure can or water bath home canned foods.
  2. Wash hands before and during the vacuum sealing process.
  3. Try not to touch food with your hands. Use clean spoons, tongs or something else to handle the food.
  4. Be sure to keep utensils, cutting boards and counters clean.
  5. Keep vacuum sealed foods in the refrigerator or freezer. Dry food, like crackers and nuts, can be stored at room temperature.
  6. Freeze low-acid vacuum packaged foods and consume immediately after heating. Never heat a low-acid vacuum packaged food and allow it to stand at room temperature in the vacuum package.
  7. Ensure that you do not cross contaminate food.
  8. Properly label food sources with type of food and date packaged.
  9. Ensure the seal is complete and that there is no debris in the seal.

Which Foods are Safe and How Long Do They Store?

Shelf life of vacuum packaged foods
FoodStored InNormal Shelf LifeVacuum Shelf Life
Large cuts of meat: beef, poultry, lamb and porkFreezer6 months2-3 years
Ground meat: beef, poultry, lamb and porkFreezer4 months1 year
FishFreezer6 months2 years
Coffee beansRoom temperature4 weeks16 months
Coffee beansFreezer6-9 months2-3 years
Berries: strawberries, raspberries, blackberriesRefrigerator1-3 days1 week
Berries: cranberries, huckleberries, blueberriesRefrigerator3-6 days2 weeks
Cheese – hard, semi-soft and pasteurized cheeses.*Soft cheeses such as Brie, Camembert, Ricotta, Cottage and Teleme MAY NOT be vacuum packagedRefrigerator1-2 weeks4-8 months
Cookies, crackersRoom temperature (periodically opening)1-2 weeks3-6 weeks
Flour, sugar, riceRoom temperature6 months1-2 years
LettuceRefrigerator3-6 days2 weeks
NutsRoom temperature6 months2 years
Oils with no preservatives, like safflower, canola, corn oilRoom temperature5-6 months1-1.5 years
WineRefrigerator1-3 weeks2-4 months

Above table adapted by Tilia Inc. from Dr. G.K.York, Dept. of Food Science & Tech, U of California, Davis
Vaccum sealing food can be a productive way to maintain your food source as well as prolong its shelf life. Ensure that you take the proper steps in handling and storing your  food to reduce the presence of bacteria in your food storage.

vacuum sealing can be hazardous to your health

Monday, March 27, 2017

A sad day....

Spring is here!
The sun is shining and the thermometer is pointing at 19C in the shade.
The air is filled with birdsong and calls. Flights of geese, swans and cranes pass overhead all the time and in the garden the snowdrops and crocus are blooming. Virtually no snow or ice remains in our garden.
However it is a sad day. The one thing(s) that I really was hoping to see, did not emerge. No bees....
So I opened the hives and both were stone dead. The probably cause is famine. There simply was not enough food for them last year to gather enough and build a strong hive. I tried to help them by feeding them sugar water, but they would not take that very well.
Checking hive 1, the weakest of the two, I found that many bees were stuck inside the cells trying to get the last food and died there. The main clusters were covered with mould, so I think they died some time ago. There were thick clumps of dead bees beneath these and these were decaying pretty bad already too. When I brushed off the dead bees from the wax there too many bees were stuck inside the cells. They had only built 2 combs, but not filled them, so this was really a very weak hive.
One I sort of expected to not make it, but both? That is a blow....
So I checked hive 2 as well. Same scenario, but with a difference; there was one comb still filled with capped honey!?? And they had been expanding pretty well, building 4 new combs too.

Be that as it may, it is back to square one again. Well, not entirely. We already have the hives and the gear.
Just no bees.....

This is the capped honey left in hive 2.
There is a similar patch on the other side too!
Plus a lot of uncapped honey....

The combs in hive 2.
They have been building after we transferred them, but then it seems they just stopped.
Nothing's filled or used....

Monday, March 20, 2017

development and growth

The birds are singing, the snow and ice are all but gone. We have passed the springequinoix and brighter days are ahead. The first migratory birds are returning. There are male blackbirds all around us, whooper swans up in the skies and in the field. Buzzard were seen soaring through the sky above the vantagepoint above our village and last night the first four cranes passed over, announcing the coming of spring with trumpeting sounds.
We can smell the lakes and the soil again, mixed with an unmistakable sweet scent. Sap's rising!

As an afterburner from my previous post, questioning the viability of continuing this blog, I decided to go for it after all. I like doing it too much to just quit and in becoming silent I would see myself as a part of the problem(s) I address regularly here.
One of the key guidelines I try to live by, is being the change I want to see. And by showing that I hope to set an example and maybe even lead by it.
Another thing I like to do, is to challenge and analyse myself. For me this is a prerequisite for personal development and growth. Changing jobs or surroundings, leaving comfort zones, despite clinging to them and trying new things, although I really do not like change..... all these things happen regularly. Thinking out of the box and questioning common ideas/beliefs or official policies are part and parcel of my everyday life. In other words, trying to remain open to other points of view. And every once in awhile that means letting go of things too.
So I cleaned up my act, left a number of forums, cleaned up contact lists and removed a number of blogs that I used to follow. All the things that did not give me anything new or only confirmed my current point of view. This cleaning up business had another, more profound reason too. Turned out I was not nearly being as openminded as I thought.....
Another thing I have adopted, is a challenge I once read on a Swedish bookreading network. Every once in a while pick up a book of an author or on a subject one would usually not read or even completely out of one's area of interest in order to open up to new views and/or facts. Personally I feel that the latter would be very demanding in as reading a totally uninteresting subject would make it a struggle to finish such a book and by not finishing it, it might just add to the prejudices one might have. So I compromised somewhat. There had to be some relation to me, just to make it through the book.
The first one I picked up was written by a Pakistani - Qaisar Mahmood. The book in question is called "jakten på svenskheten" or The hunt for Swedishness (free translation by me) and was actually recommended, and I fully agree, to both immigrants and Swedes alike. Both sides really would learn a thing or two!!

Another author I am currently reading/studying is Richard Dawkins, an ethologist, evolutionary biologist and passionate atheist. I came across him in a highly unlikely manner; him being featured on the latest cd of a Finnish metalband called Nightwish and their latest album Endless Forms Most Beautiful. Now I usually do not have much with music, but this album to me is special in as it touched me deeply both in sound and in lyrics.

Now both authors were/are completely new to me as are their subjects. However both authors also do touch some common ground with me. Mahmood in being an immigrant, seemingly struggling in or with Swedish society, wanting to find out what it means to"be Swedish" and Dawkins by questioning religion and its effects on society and history.

But in the meantime I have gotten into a bit of a tight spot. One that had the potential to completely overthrow my life..... and not just mine.
Due to various reasons, up to and including my own emotional and mental spiral downwards towards the gaping abyss of ever lasting doom, my wife delivered me the shock of my life, by announcing her wish for a divorce.
And that shook me to the core. With that announcement she dealt me such a savage blow that I finally got some sense knocked into me. I will spare you all the details, but thankfully she did not press on. The only thing stopping her were my pleas to not do so. Turns out it was an act of desperation from her side and that move eventually created room for dialogue. It also ensured that I first went through an emotional discharge, unleashing a lot of bottled up feelings, anger, pain and frustration, clearing the air for myself as well. But most importantly it made me realise and understand what was going on and how much I actually still loved her.  And that still is with all my heart, even after knowing her for almost 30 years. And the feeling is mutual.
So for now a relational disaster has been averted and we are working on growing toward each other again instead of apart, We are confident that our future together still exists. So much so that we are willing to go through with another change we were considering; a move.
Yes, we actually are considering leaving this place...

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Why bother

The world outside looks as if it has been covered in whipped cream. A fresh load of fluffy, yet wet and heavy snow covered the world I live in and now the temperatures dropped again. before that world was glazed over. Days of thaw, followed by nights of frost followed by rain..... and the roads looked like covered in glass. It was fairly hazardous to venture outside, but for now we can go outside and enjoy winter renewed. And we, or at least I, do actually enjoy it again. This comeback reminded us that it still is only february and thus still winter. Despite the high temperatures we experienced, we even sat on the balcony for tea, spring and all its regrowing wonders is still a long way off. No flowers for us for quite a while I'm afraid...
We'll enjoy these blooms instead

So I am sitting here and think. Think about what to do. With this blog for one.
I have reached the 5-year mark and I have written a great deal about a variety of subjects. In the meantime I have seen most of the blogs I followed, come to a complete standstill or change and become far less interesting. But that's the way things go I suppose. Blogs come and go, get born, evolve, mature and fade away..... or change all together. Just like and because of the people behind them. And sometimes I wonder; maybe the time has come for mine to become quiet too? It has changed a lot I think and I am running out of subjects right now. It appears that people do not want to know about current crises or political/banking schemes. It does appear that they do not want to become confronted with unpleasant articles. Those that do have far better options to go to anyway. Apparently the subjects I am touching these days do not rank high on the demand-list. The days of roaming the woods are few and far between, interests change, personal mindset too.
I ask myself the question as to why I write regularly. What is my motivation? Reaching out to people, yes. But why? To entertain? Not really. Maybe a small part. To educate? Perhaps to show that things can be done? Yes. To inspire and motivate. That certainly too. But not in the least part to connect as well. But lately even those connections are falling silent...
I once read somewhere that people often read blogs like these to escape reality, not become confronted with it. People want to live their fantasies, like roaming the woods or have a little farm or whatever, through the life and writings of others.

The list of concept-posts gets longer, because I am asking myself if it would be worth posting. And often the answer "why bother" comes to mind. Because when there is no response, then why bother indeed? So I will think things over. If or how I should continue. Maybe it has become to diverse, to confronting, to depressing or simply to dull. Personally blogs that ramble on and on on the same subject quickly become boring to me. Someone showing nothing but walks in the woods and pictures of coffee pots over a fire quickly lose my attention, no matter how nice it looks. And the same goes for those showing their seedlings growing. Reports on buying the latest knife/axe/gadget or tray of canned food doesn't hold my interest for long either if at all. But that might just be the way to attract and hold a crowd??
Maybe I need to ask myself the question as to why I really am doing this or what I want to be? Do I do this for me or for others? Am I a storyteller or a guide? A doomsday prophet or a teacher? Or maybe I just like the attention? I sure like to write. And I do think I have something to say. Something meaningful too.
I am leaning toward turning the page, not closing the book, but maybe it's time simply has come.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Wasting daylight

These past few days we have had a serious spell of thaw. The sound of dripping water everywhere, singing birds and on the balcony in the sun temperatures reached 20C!! The first flies have been active and our youngest daughter even saw a butterfly yesterday!! Bluetits are investigating the nestboxes, magpies are bickering over what I think should be nesting sites and the black woodpecker calls out to mark his territory.
The theme of change still seems actual. But if the weather forecasts are anything to go by, and they are quite erratic these last days too, winter will not just give in and should return after the weekend. It still is only february after all.
These are days that I feel at my worst. Not enough work to fill my days, one can only do so much household, anxious to get going in the garden, which is still hard as rock and covered in ice. I can not let out the chickens either, since the birdflu curfew still is in effect. Walking the over-dynamic duo has also become a high risk enterprise, since the roads are icing over and the studs underneath the boots do not always guarantee a sufficient footing! Yes, I think the fifth (Swedish) season has begun; vårvinter. That time between deep winter and spring.
So all in all my days are filled with a lot of reading. There are books to be found everywhere and authors like Forstchen, Paolini, Canavan, Rothfuss, Hoffman, Pullman or Sapkowski can be seen lying around or in hand. A welcome change in subject there too. For now no military history, biography, homesteading or gardening books, although fantasy has always been a popular subject with me.... or us. It is more the absence of the others that is noticeable.
And I have picked up my scale modelling hobby again too. Some creative juices are flowing again...
But these last few days my wife has been keeping me company. She is recovering from her flu and so we sit and drink coffee, do some chores together when possible.... and drink some tea.... and do our hobbythings.... and drink some more tea...

So we wait...... not really able to do more.
And that feels like wasting daylight to me.....

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Winter is coming

A phrase from a popular tv-series game of thrones. Great books too as far as I can tell.

But I do believe that winter indeed is coming. Winter for our society, for the world as we know it.
Because I can already see the signs of the following spring; the preparations for a new awakening, a rebirth. Buds have been forming to start growing and blooming after winter. An awareness that spreads. People waking up, seeing that what is today is not good. Is sick and has to die. That will be society's winter. I think we are in the final days of society. It has sprouted, it grew and it is going through the final cycles of wilting. It has spent its vigour, its youth and has only one thing left to do; to die. That will be winter. The time where all things have to stop, all things have to die. That which is sick and weak will not make it to the new spring. The seeds and buds lacking the strength to regrow will never sprout, the seeds that have that strength will.
The buds I mean are the people, who wake up. People seeing the world for what it really is. Understanding that it is wrong, became rotten, ruthless, cruel and ruled by the greedy and powerhungry. People who resist complying anymore and are actively seeking new ways. People trying to awake and inspire others. I see this more and more and I also see the established structures reacting ever more desperate and violent.
This winter will bring death and destruction to many, but that will be inevitable. Winter is merciless. Those unprepared or unfit will perish and probably many that were too. But after each winter a new spring will come and we can only do what we can to make it until then, either by reaching it ourselves or by creating the best possible conditions for others to do so, like preparing "our young" just as it is the way of nature.

And speaking of illness; our family is going through a spell of illness too. The wife's down with flu, our youngest daughter's stomach thought it was time to regurgitate its contents at 02:50 this morning in the middle of the bedroom and hall, resulting in the ultimate sleepless night. We all have the sniffles and feel generally unfit.... But there was that inconvenient truth that homesteading leaves little time for illness. Animals have to be cared for, fed, watered and walked and as I was doing so this morning I was treated to some heartwarming scenes. One of our neighbours is using flower pots as temporary birdfeeders and the trees were positively alive with them. Several species of finches and tits were fluttering about and chattering and I did detect the first notes of the songs they will be singing before long.
A few moments later I was witnessing the "birth" of another day; the sun rising above the hills, heaving itself higher over the summit ever so slowly. I actually saw it grow and the light intensify as it try to pierce the morning haze. Even the dogs granted me the moment and kept quiet, waiting until I was done watching.
Such moments make life worth living.

And as I was writing this post we got confirmation that another, significant change is coming our way. One that is going to force self dependence on us. Our social safety net will shrink considerably. We had expected that to happen, but now it will become a reality and soon, too.
And I have that strange feeling that changes are not over for us just yet.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The drums of war - war with Iran


They have been beating a while now, but I think they are now beating louder than ever!!

A quick rundown of the situation;
Iran has announced to drop the dollar.....

As did Saddam Hussein, when he wanted to exchange the (petro)collar for the Euro -> the second Gulf war....
the guardian article

Gadaffi wanted to do something similar; drop the (petro)dollar and install the goldbacked Dinar -> a revolution starts and Libya gets bombed into the stone age by NATO....

And now Iran dumps the dollar too. Iran, a country that the US wants dead and gone for ages now.

And the propaganda machine for creating an excuse to attack Iran is being cranked up already;
Press-secretary Sean Spicer falsely accuses Iran of attacking us navy vessel

The plan to take out Iran is nothing new either as it was with Irak, Lybia;
General Wesley interview 2007

Now all of these links came up instantly just using google.
Dig a little deeper if you can be bothered and I am sure you'll come with much, much more...
Like why and how the US has been taunting Russia and China. You know minor things like treaties, monetary unions, Ukraine, South Chinese sea, embargos and looming trade wars..... insignificant stuff like that.

And then you might see connections!
Iran has alliances with Russia and China. Yes, those same two countries the US has been pecking and jabbing at and relations between those are tense..... Very. very tense.....
The US attacks Iran, a country not really loved by its neighbours, but maybe those neighbours recognise the common enemy here. You know the one that brought liberty, freedom and democracy to their countries as well. They might just join forces.
And maybe China will not directly get involved militarily, but might just see an opportunity to raise the South Chinese Sea-issues to a whole new level.....
And maybe the Russians will see an opportunity to join that merry band in showing that bully of the world once and for all that he is done for....
You are seeing a pattern here??

Oh and besides....
The elite in the US is busy bugging out and digging in on a massive scale....
Yes, the rich folks are running.....
Why??? government retirees bugging out

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Turning things around

After that wonderfully dismal, depressing previous post I figured I'd level out my whining with some other, non relevant side information.
Winter has returned. We are seeing the sun these days and temperatures dropped. Fresh crisp air that cleanses the nostrils and sinuses are ours to enjoy again.

We have become convinced that our Rex not only is a German shepherd-Alaskan husky male, not only is the older half of the over-dynamic duo, but also the reincarnation of an old, grumpy man. He at times is moody and indeed grumpy, groans and moans when he lies down, wants to lie on soft bedding and he even looks like an old man!!! More and more I believe he was sent back to Earth as a dog, subservient to humans to learn his place and as punishment for being a total jerk in a previous life.
But he is learning. He is getting more gentle, more friendly and he really is a good pal to all of us, including the cats. He is learning to contain and withhold himself, trying to accept that someone else is getting attention, but not he at that time. His overprotectiveness is getting less and overall he seems to become less anxious, although his brain still works on overdrive and his fierceness has not lessened yet...
Doesn't he??!!
Odd and I are on a roll too with that whole bog out food box. It went from BOB F-72 to M T-72 (Matlåda or foodbox, T for timmar or hours) to M T-90 and that one become a part of the bigger picture, called MEK-5 beta, standing for Modular Evac Kit for 5, development-version. I'll get back to that sometime later on. But it is fun; 2 no more spring chicken roosters, balling back and forth ideas and going nuts over it like small boys with new toys. Like he said": Got to have some fun too. Can't all be serious..." The MEK Beta is his idea by the way.

But keeping with the whole change-thing; there's more change in the air for us.
The other night we had a familymeeting, something we do when there are issues to discuss concerning the whole family, so everyone is involved. It all started with my wife finding a house and dreamily commented that that would be something for us. My typical reaction was rolling my eyes, but still I looked at it..... And she was right. It really would fit us. Enough room for us all, easily adaptable to off-grid, a larger piece of land, so more room to grow food and have plenty of space left for us and the dogs and located in a community of which we know we would fit in much more.  And precisely that is the keyissue; we do not fit in her. We feel tolerated, but not really accepted, let alone welcome and above all we feel lonely here, especially the girls. No other kids in the village for them to hang around with. That place even has a Waldorf school right across the street (If there is a thing we miss since we left the Netherlands, than that would be it), so the girls would not only not having to take a 30-45 minute bus drive to school, they'd also have much more opportunity to meet friends and hang out with them.
So we had this meeting.... and all were positive!! We talked everything through; housing, schools, social aspect, but also finances and other potential pitfalls. The main thing that struck me however, was that we were unanimous. We are all ready to leave this place. That really hit me.....
Now there is a next to none chance we might pull this through, but we feel that every step we take will increase our chances. The first babysteps have been taken and we have many more to go, but the most important one has been taken.
Now I realise that this place has served its purpose; we found a place for ourselves in a new country. We learned what it is like to live out in the country here, have learned to be relatively independent and we have come to appreciate that very much. But we also learned we are not loners. We need people around us. We need a small community, preferably with a similar mindset to really thrive, interact and cooperate with. We have outgrown this place and the time to move on has come.
I truly believe that destiny has given us this place to learn and grow and I do believe that when the time is right we will move on and grow more.
Maybe this is that time....

We feel ready.....

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Some things never change

The weather's been grey and dreary for quite sometime again. Seem winters are similar to the Dutch ones we left behind more and more; not really cold, humid and overcast. Today everything's just..... light grey. Where snow ends and clods start is hard to tell..... A good, depressing atmosphere to tell a bit about recent events.
It started the previous weekend. Our youngest daughter was going to have a scouting overnighter and we would go grocery shopping afterwards. A usual routine these days after payday. Except..... payday was a little not what we expected. Due to administrative errors beyond our control my wife got only about 40% of her salary.... That was friday. To make things more interesting my wife, after leaving our youngest one at the scouting, turned out to have run a flat tire. That was saturday morning...
This meant changing a tire with the tools supplied with the car. We did that before last summer, but now conditions were quite different; cold, with snow and ice on the ground and wheel, grime and sand and did I mention cold? Snow and ice melt when you touch it, but metal stays cold. This was a useful lesson though. Changing the tire in itself is not that much of an issue for us. We do it twice a year at least. But I wonder how many people do not? Have you ever changed a tire on your car? Can you unfasten the bolts on the wheel with nothing but the handtool supplied?  We do not fasten the bolts with powertools, so we can... Having a spare set of gloves in the car is another must have. Wet gloves make for numb fingers very fast. A rubber mat to sit on would also have been nice. Makes for dry and less cold knees.
Well, the tire was changed in under half an hour, so we could go on our way. Fixing the tire was a no-go however. There were 3(!) holes within a 10cm row. Maybe she hit a lost horseshoe?? This meant a new tire and another hole in our budget. You can see where this is going, right.... We did the shopping and loaded up the car real good. And we do that once a month, so we have some supplies at home just in case we happen to run into trouble like low funds, a broken down car or any other circumstance unabling us to do shopping. Plus buying in bulk means you get more for your money. Not just because of larger packages, but also because of less visits to stores.
And that night, again my wife,,,,, This time her cellphone died. Just like that.... A little over one year old, so no guarantee. Wouldn't you know it... That means more expenses coming our way. And then, last week, we got a letter from försakringskassan, a government institution that is supposed to help people with benefits. Supposed to, because if you hear and read the everyday stories about those people.... They help you alright (*insert major sarcasm here*) and so did they with us. We got the final calculations from 2015 and now we have to cough up and repay a very substantial amount in housing benefits, which they deem we received unnecessary. True, we did get it and yes, I worked the summer at the churchyard. Yes, I reported that and no, they did not alter the benefits, saying it was of no consequence and yes, we did spend it. Turns out in hindsight that my income was of no consequence to any health benefits I should want to claim! Not housing!!
But wait! There's more! Due to financial shortages we had to suspend the road tax from our Pajero (roughly the amount of a week's salary), which means I can not work on weekdays and I haven't been called to substitute since before christmas, which means.... You guessed it; no income for me.
And then there is a large car maintenance coming up shortly. A job I can not do myself, so.... Another week's salary down the drain in the near future.
And now we finally got a building permit from the municipality, allowing us to change the sewage system that that same municipality forces us to change! Meaning an increase in mortgage.
As you see some things never change. Finances are always an issue, especially when things are turning out ok and we seem to be having more room in that matter. The more room we get, the harder the blow afterwards is! It is as if something is trying to teach us to get by with very, very little and whenever that little gets more and we adjust to that, lesson 1 is put back in power again!

Thou shalt not receive and thou shalt not spend it!
Thou shalt live as frugal as possible!! 
Thou shalt get by with as little as possible!!!

But there is one change though; a quite significant one. My wife has landed a fulltime job now, meaning a steady, if not massive income. It will be slightly over the barrel scraping minimum we have lived on these past years, but a vacation to the homeland, as my wife would like, will not be a possibility. At least not for all of us at the same time. For us that also means that we will roll into a set pattern; my wife working for an income and me staying home, taking care of kids, household, animals and garden. Very little, if any paid work for me, except maybe during the weekend or school holidays.
We get by and still have the most essential things we need; a roof over our head, wood for warmth, food and warm clothes and gas for the car. The usual bills get paid and we can afford luxuries as cellphones for all.... Although those bloody things seem to be quite mandatory these days. But it showed us just how dependent we are on those devices; social contacts in one form or another, banking and even navigation... It all is gathered in one, battery driven, hitech, prone to fail (because that's the way they are designed, called designed redundancy) handheld gadget, doing it all for you. But when it breaks.... Who knows the phone numbers of their families and friends by heart? Who keeps an up to date copy of the roadmaps in their car? Banking is not even longer possible without such a thing!!
A grim lesson again.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

5 years....

395 posts. More than 300.000 views.

5 years to this day..... since I first started writing this blog. Initially thought as an outdoor sideshow for our emigration blog, but it became so much more. It was to become the tale of the journey I had embarked on...

And what a journey that has become...

Starting out as a man, trying to escape the madness of modern city life and, unconsciously, searching for himself, his place and his connection. And well on his way discovering more and more the true wickedness of the life and system he was trying to get away from. A journey with hardship and amazing discoveries, with bitter lessons and awesome revelations. A journey discovering home.... and myself.
During this journey past, present and future came together. The way I grew up with the way and the crafts of old, like food preserving, firing up the stove on a cold winter morning and the growing of plants, through gardening, the longing for independence and the absurdity of logistical systems, massively polluting the air we breath, the water we drink and ruining the very land we grow our food on, poisoning that too along the way...
5 years of ramblings, babblings, outdoorsy woods stuff, bushcraft, politics, personal brainfarts, social issues or plain everyday life of a wannabe homesteader. I think I done it all. Sometimes i worry that there will not be much left to write about or that I start repeating myself, but so far I think I managed to avoid both issues.,,, more or less.
5 years.... and looking back through the posts, as I regularly do, when I am bored or don't feel like doing anything, I can not help but notice how much things have changed. How much I and indeed we all have changed.
During the life of this blog I have lost old friends, found some new ones, but lost some of those again, too. We found a new home, I radically changed my lifestyle and everyday life, we got older and the tensions of starting a new life from scratch do show. I barely recognise my own children, comparing them with the images in my mind of 5 years ago. They grow up so fast, both physically but also mentally. I daresay that sometimes I barely recognise myself!
5 years and in some ways they seem like 5 weeks, but in others they seem like a lifetime.
In the beginning I thought I was a woodsman, connecting to nature and being at home in the forest. Little did I realise that I was but a city guy, running into the woods to escape modern urban life, including the job he hated. Turns out I still do love the woods, but I am not at home there. I am a mere visitor. A worshipper in the cathedrals of mother nature. Turns out I am much more a farming guy. In love with the plants he sows, plants and later harvests. At peace when surrounded by chickens and bees. In awe of the small creatures a garden harbours. At home in the agricultural landscape of southern Dalarna. If someone would have told me years ago that one day I'd be standing in the middle of a cackling and clucking bunch of chickens, whilst cleaning our their coop and feel at peace, just looking at them I might have laughed in their face.

These days the blog is moving more toward the prepping hemisphere. How could it not be? It is the accumulation of all things learned and done. Given the ways in which society and economy are developing, one has to be an absolute blind idiot (to me) to not see it. But then again I do think that we are in no short supply of that category of people.
Sometimes I wonder if I take it too far, but more often I feel I am not taking it far enough. I guess the long winter nights leave a lot of time to think and wonder.
But the days of growing are nearing again. Growing as in plants and animals. I do not see any growth for man. Maybe that will come after winter has come and gone for the western world. Being reborn again in the spring of an new era. Because I am hopeful. The process will be very painful and even more ugly and many will not make it. Large chance we will not either. But I will give us the best chance we have, the largest advantage over the rest possible. And in the end it might prove to be not enough or it just might prove to have been. For us, but much more importantly for our kids. It is they that will have to deal with what will be left, for we have had the largest part of our existence.
But maybe, no probably, it is for the best that many will not make it through the turmoil. After all mankind truly has become a plague. Ransacking our home planet, like a spoiled, disrespectful addict ransacks the house of its parents, consuming what it finds, destroying whatever gets in the way and is deemed not of use at the time, all in search of the quick fix. We, as a species, have squandered our birthright. The right to a nourishing, sheltering home. Because we ransacked, pillaged, defiled and consumed our home and the treasures therein.
Do I think my children deserve to live and maybe find such a place? I most certainly do, as does every child. Like I said I believe it is their right by birth. Whether they maintain that right is up to them and decided by their actions. Continue ransacking, consuming and destroying and that right will be lost. To love, cherish and maintain that world earns them a right to that place. And I feel the vast majority of (wo)men have long lost that. Do or did I earn it? I let others decide. Those that come after me and hopefully they can honestly say:"Yes dad, you did...."

As for this blog..... I will continue to write, simply because I love to write. And simply because I feel that this way I might reach out and touch people, inspire them or just to let them enjoy what I write and do. I know there are those who do enjoy it, but I sincerely hope that I touch people and inspire them to be the change they want to see, themselves.
That would be the ultimate reward and even reaching one would have made these 5 years worth while.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Bug Out Food Box - part II

I have dubbed it the BOB F-72...

The following menu was thought up and I put together the ingredients accordingly.
- oats porridge (havregryn) with raisins and/or nuts
- hardbread with jam, liverpaté or cheese in a tube.
- semolina (mannagryn) porridge with dried fruit or applesauce

- tinned mackerel in tomato sauce and hardbread
- self baked bread w/nuts, dried fruits, raisins and jam
- canned soup

- pasta w/ham and tomato sauce
- rice, beans and tuna
- mashed potatoes, sauerkraut, sausage.

The contents;
What I packed myself;
1x5 portions of rice in a mylarbag
1x 13dl of flour, giving 2 loafs of bread. The required amount of yeast is taped to it.
1 vacuum sealed package of dried apricot pieces
1 vacuum sealed 1x5 portions of semolina
3x 5 portions of cacao+sugar (5+1 tablespoon)
5 portions of muesli vacuum sealed
1 pack of vacuum sealed hardbread (15 slices)

What I bought and used as is;
1 jar of coconut oil
4 cans of tuna
4 cans of assorted beans
1 small can of corn
2 can of 8 sausages
4 cans of a hearty soup
5 cans of mackerel in tomatosauce
1 can of pineapple pieces
1 pack with 4 bags of powdered, mashed potatoes. 1 pack will do for the 5 of us.
1 pack with 2 bags of powdered milk, each giving 5 liters of milk
1 pack of coffee
1 jar of honey
1 500gr. bag of pasta
2 cans of ham
1 jar of applesauce
1 can of sauerkraut
1 box of tea
2 bars of chocolate (real chocolate, not that brown, sugary surrogate)
1 can of tomato pieces
1 tube of concentrated tomato paste
2 packages of concentrated juice to make "lemonade"
1 package with 10 bouillon cubes
1 ziplock with a good number of small bags with salt, pepper and sugar. You know, the ones you get at every restaurant or gas station.... or IKEA. ;) And of course a box of matches. This ziplock also contains a small bag of silica to absorb moisture.

As an extra, since there was room to spare, I added 1x5 portions of muesli to be blended with milk, a small pack of bouillon cubes as a warm inbetween drink or as base for soup, containing what ever might be left and useable and 3 packages with 1x5 portions of cacao+sugar to make hot cocoa to make a warm energy drink for those not too fond of coffee or tea (also for those that are ;) )..... and of course some matches! I put those in almost every kit I have. With some products I left the cardboard outer shell in place as an emergency tinder to make fire. I still have some room left, so I am thinking about adding a package of egg noodles and maybe some dried vegetables, if I can find them. Along with the bouillon another quick, warm stomach filler. Maybe add some herbs. I am still looking for those small tins of liverpaté or jam. Those tubes with cheese are awful!
There are still some details to work out. First I need to add a clear window to the lid, behind which I can slip a note with the date and maybe product of the first thing that expires, as a memo to oversee the box as a whole. I will also add the menu, just in case. There'd be enough to think about, should we ever need to use the box as it is. I will exchange the large jar of honey for a small one. No need for almost 0,5kg of honey, how ever much I like it. I will take out the box of tea and replace it with 3x5 vacuum sealed teabags. I will regard this box as an ongoing project and exchange, alter or adapt as I see fit or need for it.

Now the very thing that got me started, was a wooden box that has been sitting in the my basement for a while, holding a variety of stuff and projects, but which originated as a transport box for our cast iron cookware. Nothing bombproof or heavy, yet sturdy enough for the purpose. I like the size though. Very handy with 2 rope handles.
The entire box weighs in at 24kg.

And to make things complete...... 5x5 and 5x2 liters of water. But since I topped up the containers, there is 0,5l of extra water per container. Enough for 72 hrs with room to spare, just as with the foodbox.
Why 5x5 and 5x2? Simple. The containers came free, you can much more easily store a small container or several of them in small places and you only need to open 1 small one at a time, minimizing the risk of contaminating or spilling the rest. Much easier to handle or refill too.

Now why on earth would anyone do this? Why make such a kit? There surely is no need for it?

First of all I sincerely do hope that there indeed will be no need for it..... ever. But!
With so many governments throughout Europe urging their people to be prepared for crisis or war. To make sure they can take care of themselves for at least 72hrs or even longer. With politics both local and global developing as they do..... There is something brewing.
Besides it also was a good training for the brain, an exercise for the mind.
And it doesn't hurt to have a little something in reserve. A power cut or a car breaking down, preventing you from getting supplies can just happen at any given time. In such cases one is glad to be a bit of a nutter... ;)