Monday, February 18, 2019

Spånsan fäbodar

Well, there's no denying it anymore; I am broken.
These past few weeks saw me struggling with a lot of physical discomfort and pain; shoulders, elbows and right wrist have been acting up quite badly. I sought professional help and the verdict was inflammations in both shoulders AND both elbows; impingment in the shoulders, the right more affected then the left, and golfer's elbows (don't even play golf!) and from the right one the problems were spreading into my right wrist and hand.
This has far reaching consequences both for my professional career as well as privately. The physician asked me if I seriously wanted to continue my current job on the dairyfarm, clearly indicating she would deem that not the wisest of choices. However I am not ready or willing to give up neither my job nor my chosen homesteading lifestyle, so it means a serious alteration of routines and making compromises. The elbows can be fixed, but it might take 6-12 months before they are fully cured. The problems with the shoulders will be permanent, but can be eased with proper training up of certain musclegroups and moderation and adaptation when it comes to physical work.
This message hit me hard and that night I sat on the couch, feeling.... well, not broken, but something had snapped. Some cracks had appeared in that what I perceive myself to be like. I needed time to not just let the inflammations ease down a bit, but also to process it all. I rang my employer and asked for a few days off.
Coincidentally our outdoorgroup was gathering just that weekend and I contacted Olli to see if I could still tag along. The gathering had been in the making for quite some time, but I was more than welcome! So on saturday morning I packed up what I thought I needed and headed toward Spånsan Fäbodar; a collection of huts and cottages on the edge of Gyllbergen naturreserve, just outside the city of Borlänge. There was a trackerscabin, where we would gather and spend the night. I arrived shortly before lunch and after having greeted the Martin and Olli, who were already there I got settled and had a bite to eat. During that time the rest of us arrived and things got crowded. The cabin at times resembled a beehive, buzzing with talk, activity and laughter.
After all had settled in nicely Olli suggested we'd do some snowshoe walking and tracking, the only problem being that there were not enough snowshoes. So he and I figured we'd tag along without those.

This is one of the typical ways Boel likes to portait people (me).
photo; Boel Engkvist
Boel Engkvist
For much of the time I was at the head of our little colomn and at one point I decided to play a little trick on some of the followers, one that I had done on several occassions; just stand still and blend in.
It worked rather well, since both Boel and Olli passed me by, while I was standing there in plain sight. I spooked them good, when I spoke to them!
The below picture show both the distance and the lighting conditions. It was overcast and grey.

Olli Niemäla

Boel Engkvist
We learned many lessons that day, the most important one being having a good time and keep laughing, no matter what. At places I sank into the show up to my groin and I learned to read the trail of the ones in front wearing snowshoes. If I kept to the centre of their prints, where tjeir toes had left a mark, I could often remain on top of the snow if I gently put my toes onto that mark and then add my weight to the rest. Often, but a lot of times even that didn't work!
I also learned, by watching others, that balance is key! especially when wearing a rucksack. The slightest imbalance and you'll tip over, sometimes ever so slowly, but unstoppable. Getting up proved to be very tricky as well!

Magnus Brodén

The difference between having snowshoes or not.
Photo; Magnus Brodén

To the rescue!
Once down it proved hard to get back up again!
Magnus Brodén
Photo; Boel Engkvist
Photo; Boel Engkvist

The further we got, the worse the snowquality became! And at one point there was just no more going without snowshoes. Both Olli and I had to go down on all fours and crawl our way forward, much to the delight of the others! Inevitably that lead to some clowning around and I must confess this hike was far from the most tactical I had ever done. Every living thing for kilometers around us must have heard us. We did find tracks, but most were too old to identify. A few were still recognisable thought and at one point Olli discovered even some wolverine prints, along with lynx, hare and moose. Very close to the place where the next photo was taken, we spotted a place where most likely a sk. ripa (Lagopus) had had its lair.

Boel Engkvist

After a few hours we came back to the cabin, since it was getting dark and we were getting hungry.
Despite all the close contact with the snow I was surprised to find my woolpants still being dry whereas other pants were clearly showing that they were wet!
At the cabin Lee was about to prepare dinner and while he claimed the little kitchen as his domain, the beehive came to life again; people talking and laughing, Irish music playing (gotta love smartphones, bluetooth and small speakers....... or not), folks bustling about or whittling. Despite all the noiciness I was glad I had come. I had needed this.
After a very good dinner (chili/beanstew) and a beer I was feeling quite content, but still jumped on the bandwagon, when a nightwalk was proposed. We took one of my lanterns and headed out into the crystalclear night. It was close to fullmoon, so not pitch black, but in between the trees the lantern proved quite handy at times. I was planning on stepping onto a big stones being revealed by the melting snow only to see that it was a large puddle on the edge of a stream of meltwater!

Johan Kriga

Magnus Brodén

The rest of the evening we pretty much sat in front of the open fireplace, talking and Boel singing and playing on her guitar. By 21:30 my sleepinghabits started kicking in and aparently my jawning "inspired" others to start thinking about a good night's rest too.
Unfortunately that was not meant to be for some of us. Some of us were noisily reminded by others that those others slept rather well

And when morning came it was time to pack up, clean up, say goodbye and head home again, but not before we had the chance to once again taste Lee's culinary skills; breakfast in the form of kolbullar (pancakes with bacon and lingonberry marmelade). A dish suited for the circumstances!

In hindsight there has to be some geartalk and there are several things I would like to address; first of all a big thank you to Lee for handing out some strange looking Moraknives and Olli for giving me a small version of a Mora Classic. I have several small knives and this one makes a great addition to that collection.
Back to the knife Lee handed out. As I said it is a Mora, but one that I had never seen before. It appears to be a sk. beteskniv or bateknife. I don't know where he got them from, but he figured they might make nice projects for rehandling or something. 
Then there is my backpack; a 1942 US Mountain Division framed backpack. I never really tried it before, but remembered not liking the frame too much (with an ampty pack). Fully loaded however it rides very comfortably, even though I only tried it for a few 100 meteres at a time.
There was no need to really use my Garberg birthdaygift, but it was with me for the first time, so the first memories have been attached to it! Hope many more to come.
My 1952 Finnish down sleepingbag..... I still haven't figured it out. Rectangular with one long zipper along a long side. No other openings. Am I supposed to completely disappear in it? It is rather cramped too, but for cabinuse quite adequate.
And maybe I should redye my anorak with a hint of olive, just to blend in more?

Anyway, I am glad I got to go out and hang out with this gang.
You people are lifesavers!!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A birthday very much to my liking!

Last weekend, sunday 13th, marked the passing of my 48th birthday and since it was the only day off in a 10 day workingperiod I wanted it be well worth my time. So I invited the members of our outdoorgroup. What better day to spend a birthday with friends? Well, I figured out in the open with some hot food would be real nice and we could do that at the charcoal kilnsite.
The saturday before I drove up to the location to see how the road in was, because of a passing storm and snowfall in the days/weeks before. I also brought the dogs to walk them there. Y'know 2 birds with one stone and all.... The way in did not go entirely as planned. The road was covered in thick, fluffly snow, making it feel as if I was driving through whipped cream. No footing or traction at all and in one curve, a very slight right one going equally slightly up hill the car just went its own way. At a very slow pace it just slide straight ahead, right into the ditch, no matter what I did. So there I was; stuck. With 2 dogs in the back and no tools. Nothing but a wooden beam. On a narrow road. Goddamn! So I set to work with that beam, using it both as a shovel and board to drive out of the ditch. After much shovelling, spinning, swearing, more shovelling, spinning and swearing I eventually got out! Ever so gently I proceeded toward the kilnsite, parking the car, walking the dogs and enjoying the scenery and silence.

Later that night we prepared all we'd need to make some high energy food. We promised those coming in a proper hot lunch and decent coffee and I was a bit nervous, because it had been a while since I made that over an open fire. Unfortunately some were unable to attend, but the vast majority did show up and we had a good time. Lots of (gear)talk, laughs, hot food that turned out to be very well liked and even a new member to our group introduced himself and shared some of his food as well. My wife, who had come up with our oldest daughter, had baked 2 fruitpies, traditional from the area we come from and these too proved quite popular!

But before that I was given some presents! My buddy Marcus had promised me a splitting axe, originally intended for christmas, but now as a birthday gift, Magnus gave me a personally handcarved coffeescoop. I love that kind of thing! And then Karin handed me a flat, round package, saying I'd probably smash up the gift. I was taken back a little..... smashing up a gift? Never! Until I unwrapped it; a think slice of pine, containing a huge amount of resin! That will make a lot of fatwood for the firekit(s)! But the icing on the cake was the gift Johan presented me with on behalf of all attending; A Mora Garberg! But with a black blade with my initials, the year 2019 AND the Dalarna emblem engraved in it!!
I was speechless..... How do small kids say??

A huge thank you to all for your gifts, but you attending was the biggest gift of all!
You made this a birthday worth remembering.

Karin took the picture, showing the whole gang present!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

... and a moo-moo here... and a moo-moo there....

You all probably know "old Mc.Donalds had a farm"-song and at one point cows came into play. That also happened in my life. I got a job as a farmhand on a dairy farm! And that is exacty why my blog has been kind of dead these past 2 months. I am dead too, when I get home....
It is hard work; work I was totally unfamiliar with, but I am loving it! I like being around cows. Turns out I have a soft spot for them and by now I am pretty much used to being around and in cowshit all day. And that's no bullshit!

There is something deeply satisfying watching cows contently munching away...
During the past month or so I have experienced pretty every aspect working on a farm with livestock; the fun (wrestling with haybales) and the dirty (scraping the cows boxes and standing up to my thighs in manure for 2 hours), the joyous (witnessing calves being born and seeing them frolic about) and the sad (cows being sick, necessitating putting them down or witnessing a cesarean section, producing a hideously deformed calf. I'll spare you the details. Google schisosomus reflexus, but be warned! No pretty pictures!!) I love the diversity of tasks; from animal care to fixing plumbing or driving an old rickety tractor from a workshop back home for 2 hours on a cold, but wonderfull sunny day. Downside was the large glass window in the back was missing and I had to take bumpy backroads all the way....
And like I said, I like being around cows. I am amused to see all their own personalities, their nosyness, their pigheadedness, especially when they have to get up, when I need to clean their spot. I swear they even shake their heads at me! "No, I don't want to get up!" And there is one calf that has been born blind. I have a special place for her. Because she can't see, she is not as skittish as other calves and thus is easier to approach. When she smells me, she stretches her neck and wants to be scratched.
I also catch myself that I am constantly talking to the animals, whenever I have to move among them or are near them. I also next to always run a hand along a flank or neck, when I pass them. I think it is important to make such contact, but I noticed I do so without actually thinking about it. It happens automatically.

Just another view from the office.... Can't beat that!

And in the meantime winter decided to finally show up. It has been and still is unusually mild for the time of year (and for the first time i do not really mind), but we did have snow for christmas!