Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Sweden is burning!

Älvdalen earlier
source; dt.se
Months of heat and above all drought have caused serious problems in the country I now call home. The most acute one are forestfires. They blossom up all over the country and firefighters and associated personel are being kept real busy nationwide. Many are relatively small fires and are under control or put out fairly rapidly, but right now there are 3 major fires (that I follow) raging in the region of central Sweden, in the provinces of Dalarna, Gävleborg and Jämtland.
Our province, Dalarna, has seen its share of fires, but our area has been spared so far, luckily, apart from a minor one, some 7 km to our north, which was taken care of quickly and effectively.
I can only hope that this situation will maintain that way, but looking at the weather forecast I can only see very high temperatures (for our area), blazing sun and even some rising wind. Firefighting crews and material are being worn down and out, so I do fear the problems are not over just yet.

Situation 2018-07-17
source; dt.se
Thankfully Sweden was able to hire waterdropping helicopters and planes from Norway and Italy, but these can not remain operational idefinitely either. Personally I feel that it is madness that a country with such large wooded areas does not have such equipment of its own, especially after the disastrous events in 2014, where both lack of heavy equipment and blundering local and national authorities allowed for a massive area being laid to waste.

But once again authorities are not stepping up adequately and decisively. Our own municipally has no information on its website whatsoever, a lot of confusion and unclearity in regard to firebans is plaging communications and the national government is nowhere to be seen or heard. I feel that if there was a time for them to act, it would be now. An absolute and nationwide ban on all sorts of open fire should be declared. This is a national issue right now and it would with one stroke remove any and all uncertainties. But that is just my opinion.
What equally pisses me off is that there are still people out there, who simply disregard warnings and danger. People still bring out their barbecues, put them on the grass or near vegetation and happily grill away, thinking a bucket of water will take care of any events. Similar within the outdoor community, where folks still insist on the use of portable means of fire, like gascookers and such, claiming they know what they do, that it still is allowed and that they apparantly MUST have the coffee or lunch made on the spot.

Meanwhile current meteorological conditions are causing massive other problems too. The farmers are getting into trouble. Not only do I fear a complete disaster for many or most crops, but especially those with livestock are in trouble. The first cut of grass for winterfodder yielded less than 50% in many places and a second cut simply will not happen. The grass does not grow.
In and around our village every conceivable piece of grassland has been cut and harvested, some for the first or second time since we moved here 6 years ago, apart for a large field, which appears to be publically owned. I also read reports of farmers already having to slaughter their livestock, because there is no food for the animals, which will have longterm ramifications for the farmers and Sweden's homegrown foodsupply. Here too is the absence of governmentaction painfully obvious and any helpinitiatives come from private sources for as far as I know.
People growing their own fruit and vegetables at home or gather that in the woods, also see their crops go to waste,  if there even are any. Plants wither or fail to fruit. Foodprices will soar coming winter, I'm sure.

Either way I will volunteer to help as soon as my wife's car comes back from the workshop. It broke down a 2,5hr drive away from home last weekend and I will not leave them stranded at home, in a wooded area, when current risks are still so high. Because of the distance to the current hotsports (painfully literally) it is not an option to just drive back in an instant in case of an emergency. And such an emergency can pop up at any one time.

Stay safe out there!

Saturday, July 14, 2018

A Swiss man's dream

Last friday, the 13th, saw me heading out into the woods again. It had been a long time, but now there was a special occassion; I was about to show a visitor from Switzerland "some Swedish woods". I figure it should be worthwhile, so I looked for some suitable woods, not your average pineplantation. I ended up finding Fermansbo urskog, a natural reserve about 1,5 hrs drive from here. It is an old forest, protected from logging and with minimal interfering. It is also the on the southern edge of the area where that great forestfire raged 4 years ago, which should also make for some interesting scenery. Little did I know we got more then we bargained for....
Arriving at the right spot caused some confusion, as apparently the accessroad had been changed, but eventually we both found our way in; Pascal coming in from the south and me from the north. Pascal and I initially "met" through the Swedish bushcraftgroup on facebook and now that he visited Sweden we figure it might be a good opportunity to meet face to face..... And so we did at 08:30. It was forecast to be a hot day, so an early start was no excessive luxury.

After the initial introduction we set out to follow a marked track through the reserve, which would take us through both old and firedamaged forest resp. to doubleback toward the parking; all in all about 3km. Figured that would be sufficient in this heat and terrain.
The first part as said went through the old forest. And it was a sight for sore eyes. This is the way forest should be, very unlike the tidy pine-, spruce- or birchplantations one usually finds. Old trees, fallen over ones and a wide variety of undergrowth. The fallen over trees would gradually come to dominate the scene, but for now we enjoy the vibes of old trees. Such a forest has a very different feel to it. We enjoyed ourselves and after having crossed a now almost dry marshland we decided to take a break. Temperatures were rising fast and keeping hydrated was a keyissue!

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit
It was at this point that we came to exchange gifts, after the promised Swiss chocolate bars had already changed hands, and ended up in my cooler box, in the car. I had brought some rather modest ones; a patch and a pair of moose antlers. After Pascal told me he had seen moose, I stuck a pewter moose pin onto his veshmeshok (Russian rucksack) as well.
Picture; Pascal Streit
He had brought me a pair of swiss army pouches, which I hoped would fit my Swedish army cookset. It was then he showed me another item he used and liked, a Russian-style ponch; a plash palatka. His demonstration apparantly made my mouth water and my eyes glisten and he talked me into owning one..... His! A follow up post on those items will come soon. But the best gift was a small item. A small pouch, handmade by him from an old Swiss army wool blanket. I immediately fell in love with it. You probably know how I love wool and the quality and softness of this wool really is Swiss. I love the colour and design too, especially after it turned out that my old army compass fits perfectly!!
We ended up having an early lunch as well and talked about all sorts of things for quite some time too. Really was too bad that there was a complete fireban, since a freshly brewed coffee would have capped the otherwise perfect moment.
But we were to see for ourselves that any form of fire really would be a very bad idea indeed.
On our way we already had come across a substiantal section of the old forest, where the trees clearly had died, but were still standing. many of the trees had been marked with tape and
even more were losing their dark, mainly around the base or first meter up. It was quite a sight seeing all these light patches of wood, but we had not yet made the connection. We figured some disease or infestation at first. But then we came to the part that clearly had been affected by the fire. It was very clear that the fire had caused the damage low to, but mostly under ground. We saw many trees with clear burnmarks, but even more unsettling we found many trees with their roots burnt off. Even the plantmaterial around the roots had gone, exposing the burnt rootstumps, loosely clinging onto the rock underground. It was an ominous sight. Aweinspiring, humbling, sobering and apocalyptic.
The marked path was reestablished after the fire, but many strong winds had since toppled over the dead trees, deprived of their roots. Knowing what I know now I would strongly advise against entering this area under such conditions, since many more trees are clearly just waiting to be blown over.

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit

Picture; Pascal Streit
We kept on following the orange marked path and gradually we made our way out of this scene of carnage, all of a sudden finding ourselves surrounded by green once again. Here the track became different. it looked much older, less well kept and often hard to follow, forcing us to backtrack. However the track became more and more narrow and overgrown and we had to cross a bridge that clearly was in serious disrepair. I had a real sense that we were heading wrong, but the track was still marked orange and we were still roughly heading in the right direction.... generally.
Eventually the track come to a gravelroad and simply ended there. We turned southward, knowing (more hoping) that we would head toward a road that would lead to the gravelroad that would lead us to our parked cars. The sun was still out in force and the temperature out on that gravel road easily exceeded the forecast 26C. We had little option but to keep going, following the road. Going back through where we had come from was a lot less appealling.
We eventually made it back to our cars indeed, after having spent roughly 1,5 hours out in the sun on a course gravel road. However we did take breaks, drank enough and kept an easy pace. Still my feet were quite sore, when we reached our destination. I had been wearing my old, thin soled army boots and these perform good enough on soft forest underground. They are far less comfortable on underground such as mentioned.
Back at the cars, we sat down on a log and talked about this and that for more then an hour. Just sitting there and being there was as good as anything, but all good things come to an end eventually and we had to make our way back home. Mine was 1,5 hour drive northward.

On my way in I had come across a vaste area where next to nothing was standing anymore and I got a feeling of desolation, just driving through it. On my way home I stopped to look and take pictures.
All around me the trees had gone and bare rock had become exposed. Everything had burnt away. There were next to no stumps or tress on the ground left. All gone. Imagine a fire hot and strong enough to completely burn up fully grown trees, pine, spruce and birch. Gone.
A fire consuming the layer of peat and forestsoil, leaving only rock.....
Such force, such devastation.... Despite the heat I felt a shudder.
Yet the vegetation is returning after 4 years. Many trees are sprouting again. Mostly birch, but the occassional pine too and lots of (I think) rallarros/mjölkört (Epilobium angustifolium.
These vast expanses will have erased the scras of fire sooner then the place we visited today.where the trees will lie and decay for many a decade to come. here there hardly is such debris.

This most certainly was a day well spent. Meeting a new friend always makes it worthwhile, but also  otherwise it will be a memorable one.

Thank you Pascal! Thank you for the gifts, but more so for this time well spent.
And I sure do hope we will meet more often! You're always welcome at my place at any rate.

Sunday, July 8, 2018

It's been a while....

More then 3 months since I did the last post. A time during which a number of things happened, but mainly a time during which I battled with a depression. Something I go through every year around the march/april-period, but this year was quite different.
The usual springdepression kicked in rather late this year. I guess due to the lengthy winter, where we had a lot of snow far into april. The severity of the depression was accordingly. And then we went from winter to fullblown summer within a few weeks, not even a month and summer stayed up till now; hot and dry. Extremely hot and extremely dry actually. And I do not do well under such conditions. I become lethargic, tired, listless. This most certainly did not help with my condition and the next blow came at the end of may. I lost my job. Which felt like a real loss, despite it, in hindsight, draining my energy.
I pretty much just caved in..... Having in the meantime found a new pasttime, politics and social issues, really did nothing to make things better. Au contraire.... things just got worse. The dark vortex of doom and gloom once again opened itself up with utter despair looming in the depths of its gaping mouth. However I also found something valuable in all this, Something worth while. Something that, despite all the problems we face today, offered a glimpse of hope as social and political scenes are changing rapidly and profoundly. I also found wisdom and help, whilst browsing the various sites and youtube. I stumbled onto something that has become know as the "Intellectual dark web", a group of free thinkers
But, equally important, I found friends much closer to home. Friends that share a common interest in the outdoors and all things related. During these past few months we met up a few times; twice as a small company and once under the guise of the annual nation bushcraft Sverige meeting. The small meetings were balm to the soul, especialy the one surrounding the experimentation-theme, but I regret to say that the national meeting actually was quite disappointing and appears to have led or is leading to a rift or maybe even a break up between the local group we have and the club in general.

My experiment consisted of natural fabic dyeing. In this case an old Swedish M59 pair of pants, dyed with onionpeels and walnutshells. Rusty metal was use as a mordant. Because of time limits I had to do the 3 steps all in one go, meaning mordant, naterials and pants in the boilingpot.
You can see the outcome, which remains even after washing.

With each colour I added a tuft of wool to show the results more vividly.
From natural to onionpeel to walnut.

As for our homestead, my depression and the following heat and drought has led to a near complete standstill, when it comes to growing crops. We were very late with sowing, an afternoon of strong winds with even stronger gales lead to the premature death of our tunnelgreenhouse. The breaking down of equipment made that I seriously got behind in cutting grass and weeds, thus keeping them in check and right now the claysoil is rockhard, being thoroughly dried and baked. Working the soil is all but impossible.
More problems have occured. The heat made that our chickencoop saw an explosion of some form of infestation. Some form of lice, but these were effectively dealt with using some predatory bugs (Hypoaspis), so now we can enter the coop again without being swarmed by these buggers and feeling itchy all the time afterwards. An addition of diatomaceous earth (kiselgur in Swedish) in their earth/sandbath took care of the rest.
Another one are forestfires! They are popping up all over the place and the firebrigades are kept rather busy. They usually respond fast and adequate, so so far real extensive damage has been prevented, but we had a good scare when one broke out 7km to our north..... with the wind blowing in our direction! Keeping in mind the large forestfires we saw to our south 4 years ago, bug out bags were packed at once. We need not have, but it was a stark reminder and a good drill.
The cause? Someone thought it necessary to still have an open fire, despite a complete fireban in the entire province!! About now wide areas of Sweden actually have implemented a complete ban on any form of open fire.

The location in question
picture; Christoffer Olerås.

But all things eventually come to an end and I can see the end of this downperiod approaching. I am feeling better, less down and angry and motivation to get things done is returning as well. My apetite for reading is back full force and I am also in the process of picking up other hobbies again.
So I feel it maybe is a good time to pick up things here too.