Sunday, July 23, 2017

20 years ago.....

I came to Sweden for the first time.... and right then in my soul I knew I had come home and that I would live here one day. That became my dream, our dream. First my wife's and mine, then our family's and today we are living that dream. Realising that dream was not easy, leaving everything and everyone we knew behind. Taking the Big Step (or Plunge or running away and abandoning it all as some called it) was huge and life changing, but we did it nevertheless. Living that dream however became a struggle on its own. When dreaming one tends to turn a blind eye to reality, but we were also misinformed and had underestimated certain conditions in our new home environment. At times (many times) the dream was a nightmare, but at others it really was a good dream.
But as dreams have a tendency to do, they change. At first it was just to live and work here, getting away from the ratrace, with nature near to retreat in or to, but the dream changed into doing more than that; into a life far less dependent on and supportive of this system, which we deem wrong, abusive and destructive. Self sufficiency came into play. We found a place out in the country with a little patch of land to grow our food and have some animals; bees and chickens.
But this year/summer I sort of gave up.... or gave in, is more to the point. I lost the energy, the momentum and the will to continue the struggle, sort of threw the towel into the ring. Constantly swimming upstream, trying to make ends meet, staying afloat..... It took its toll. It feels as if 6 years in Sweden has made me 10 years older.
My marriage almost ended. We came very close and that did leave its mark. Having 2 teens and a pre-teen does to. No blame on the kids, they are going through that teen-hell-phase, but it brought the lack of parental guidance in my youth painfully to light. As an additional bonus I got word that my father was not doing well, losing one leg, maybe even both, double hip fracture, but too weak to undergo surgery, maybe even close to death. Now there is no relation between him and me, aside from a biological bond, but the realisation that when he passes I am the next in line, the eldest in the line of male descendants gave me another shock as did the realisation that we will never reconcile. I would never travel home, even if I did have the means to do so. And that did leave a bitter taste. It once again drove home the fact that my children will continue to grow up without family. They missed their grandparents from my side, no uncles or aunts... nothing. They also missed the family on my wife's side and with her mother having moved back to the Netherlands that gap got enlarged even more so.
My income dried up once again and we fell back onto a teacher's (my wife's) salary, which is just enough to live on. We have done with less, true, but that really was survival-mode. Now we are on barely living-mode. We are not really getting anywhere with our homestead and the garden is showing the lack of drive. The fact that it has been a cool and very dry summer did the rest. We have not had the possibility to create a properly working watering system yet, so....
I also gave in with the food. Eating too much junk, having a few beers too many, not really paying attention to my health. Which of course did nothing to improve the situation.
All in all I have to say that I feel like I got stuck in my annual spring depression, which was deeper due to a negative thinking spiral during winter, and have not yet come out of it completely. It mostly is physical fatigue these days as the brain and mood are on their way up. Breaking such a cycle requires tremendous amounts of energy and that takes its toll.

Ahhh not all is doom and gloom!
The fact that the garden is not producing optimally makes for good experimentation possibilities and lessons. For instance we learned that we have to cover the beds not just against butterflies, when it comes to cabbages, but also against cats and chickens after sowing! As soon as the plants are established these two no longer wreak havoc as much, but before that......
I also learned that my aesthetically pleasing design with the long narrow beds and wooden borders are not just impractical, but they also waste many a square meter of usable surface area. So the wooden borders come out again. Instead of many separate beds the area will be divided into 4 large growing areas.
Lesson nr. 3 is that we placed our greenhouse in the wrong spot. Seedlings do grow, but the light is not optimal, causing long, thin seedlings. But also the greenhouse is in an almost forgotten corner and we regularly forgot to water the seedlings. A lot of waste of potential plants and food was the result. So we have to move the greenhouse to another location next year, which means moving the compost bin, organising our parking lot/wood processing area. That in itself means building new wood storages and optimising available space.
Speaking of wood processing; that required a lot more time and effort then anticipated. Which in itself caused me to fall behind from the get go.

And there are some exciting prospects ahead as well!!
For one is that we will be having guests from the Netherlands all through august. A couple of friends and their daughters from the old school our kids went to as well and who have visited us three years a go too plus the couple that came and visited us last year. It will be wonderful to have folks around to talk to and hang around with. I must admit the loneliness I experienced these last few months had been getting to me.
But I also managed to come into contact with people who own and use sled dogs and they are willing to show me how things are done! I am actually going to learn how to train the dogs and myself, how to use the gear and how to operate as a dog team. I am excited!!!

I have to admit that after reading Dawkins' books, and attempting Darwin's, my view on things has certainly changed. For one Dawkins put into words the things I have always felt; that religion is delusional, a huge hoax and scam. Doesn't matter which one of the major religions you pick. Putting your faith into a god, based on presumably made up stories, that are proven to be false.... Using those "holy" scripts as guidelines or even taking them literally, while they contain many horrible and inhumane acts by both gods and humans.... In my view a bad choice. Dismissing reality, while that is based on proven facts, just because "ancient" tellings dictate otherwise; a sure sign of narrow mindedness and shortsightedness.
Slaughtering one another, because your religion is more peace loving and true.... Pick a word from the dictionary under the category of sheer madness and hypocrisy.
To me religion has never been anything but a tool used to subdue the slow of mind in order to do the ruler's bidding. It was and is a tool of huge power, wielded by ruthless members of the clergy, responsible for suffering and death on a massive scale over the centuries. It feeds the feud between the main religions to this very day, still at each other's throats.
A rootcause of evil!
These books opened my eyes to the more physical world around me and I have even more begun to see the sheer wonder it contains. I have begun to look upon plant and animal with renewed curiosity, having fed my wanting to look at them even more closely to see all the intricate details they possess. I am truly amazed at how this all came to be.
I have also begun to understand that I need not worry about our world, about nature and all the living things that are part of it. There will always be life, in whatever form, going on and filling the empty places we humans have created. No matter how much we pollute, destroy, pillage and ransack the world around us, plants and animals eventually will adapt and fill the gaps. What we really need to worry about is ourselves! We might not have that capability!
Even if we kill of everything in our area it will only be a matter of time, before something living returns. It might take 100, 1000 or 100000 years, a mere blink of an eye on the geological timescale, but some form of life will return, adapt and flourish.

But it also made me reflect on my life as it is now and how that came to be. It made me wonder who I am, what I am, what I stand for and believe in.
Am I an atheist?
Am I an anarchist?
Nonconformist maybe?
Am I antisocial?
Am I a rebel or simply a pessimist?
Or am I an idealist?
A dreamer?

To be truthful I am a mixture of all of the above. How could I not be. No one is one label or another. And besides that, I hate all those ist-labels. I am me. With all my faults and merits.
But what is me? And what are my faults and merits? The one can be the other given certain circumstances.
One of the things I have struggled with for as long as I can remember is authority. Demanding authority wielded by my father, by teachers, by bosses and superiors. By any and all who thought they could demand authority, because they wanted to or felt entitled to. That became clear during puberty, as it is supposed to be, but continued all through my adult life up till now. And will continue to do so, no doubt about that. Which is strange, since I have a bit of a hard time, when my children, especially my daughters, show me that very same feat.
I struggle with imposed authority, not only by individuals, but also groups, systems or even society at large. I will not accept group rules or behaviour, simply because it is expected or even obligatory. I will always ask "why" or rebel, when forced to comply. That has caused numerous problems at the places I worked. All but one. During my army days I accepted the imposed authority. It was inherent to the job. But I still used my brain and asked why to come up with alternative solutions. And I was lucky enough to have superiors that appreciated my thinking. The Dutch army in those days was known for that flexibility. I would not have fared well in any other, to me known, army, I suppose.

Am I an atheist?
That is for certain. I renounce any and all ruling deities. I do not believe in all seeing, all knowing and all ruling gods in whatever form or guise.
However I do not deny that I do think that, despite ruling out the beliefs of the main religions, there is something more out there. Something we have yet not come to understand, natural laws not yet discovered, let alone explained. For instance things like a or the soul. The current scientific explanation that it is nothing more than electric currents, chemical reactions and proteins is not sufficient. What makes every individual unique? What makes me me and you you? How do we explain certain qualities, talents, feats or passions? Why are those processes described, if it is all there is, so very different in me than they are in you?

I often wonder how much of this all is inherited character and how much of it is taught/learned....
In my new found realisations I started to look around for others, who might think or feel like me. The isolation I often experience drove me to seek out people online, due to non existent contacts in the real world.

I ended up exploring sites and forums where atheists meet..... and once again I was not being let down in getting disappointed in humans in general. Some of those people, assumingly a relatively small, but disproportionately loud mouthed group, it seems not only have renounced the gods and religions, but along with it everything we can not scientifically explain by today's standards. In my eyes completely missing the point, by putting their complete faith (here we go again) in today's science, totally disregarding how limited, shortsighted or corrupted it was, is or has become.
Gone are the possible existence of non-physical entities, energies or otherwise yet not explained phenomenon.
And in their belief these atheists have become exactly the same as those they shun or ridicule. They attack anyone proposing otherwise, with the same shortsightedness, biases and bullyish attitude that deeply religious people tend to show these days. The same unwillingness to accept someone else's views, shouting people down with the argument that there is nothing else out there, besides that which current science cannot explain. My way or the highway. Today's science has become their bible or qur'an.
We truly are a limited species. We have evolved technically over the past millennia, but mentally and emotionally we have fallen behind that technical evolution, retaining our caveman mentality. if anything I feel we even have devolved!! We keep going in circles. Societies and civilisations come into existence, grow, fade and die, but we have yet make that leap into real enlightenment, where we truly learn and understand that we are all one. All interconnected and interdependent.
There are no gods, no heaven and no hell.
But we think we are gods, behave as devils, creating a hell on earth in instead of taking care of this heavenly place we should call home; our blue planet.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Modifying an LK35 Swedish army backpack

I've been having a new favorite backpack; an LK35. Legendary and iconic within the bushcraft world, I managed to get my hands on one..... and was not overly impressed by it! 
Here are my original finding; Swedish military backpacks LK35
Because I was not happy with the way it rode on my shoulders and back, I started altering the straps. I took a set from a derelicted Berghaus Vulcan II and also took the waist strap from that one. That made a huge difference. However attaching it to the frame required some more tweaking and I ended up sowing a minor strap from a cheap, civilian backpack to the shoulder straps, creating a "Y"-shape. With this the end of the straps remained in place by fastening them to the frame as well. From that same backpack I added a sternum strap.
Now the setup worked like a charm! I went nuts and deliberately overloaded the original frame and backpack up to 18kg with a bedroll and poncho on top and a sleeping mat at the bottom. The only thing happening was on of the waist straps coming loose, but the whole contraption rode well.

But I didn't stop there. I went one step further and tried a frame I had modified earlier in order to use it with a German backpack, as seen here; part I and part II. In hindsight that did not work too well, but the new combination did!! And it saved almost 1,5 kg in weight too.
The frames compared; you can see the "new" frame being wider and taller and has a brace big enough to keep the pack standing. A good thing on wet or dirty underground.
 But I still was not quite satisfied and the last modification I did, was a pure cosmetic one. I really did not like that bright green colour and I had been messing around with a wooden box, painting it green, adding trees, tracks and animal images to it, but in a way that might resemble camouflage;

You can see where this is going, right? Yup, you guessed it!

The pattern consists of real fern leaves oversprayed with dark green, the animal tracks in antracit grey, followed by animal depictions in brown.Now it really is MY bag. Love it!

Here's what a standard issue setup looks like;