Thursday, February 22, 2018

I could tell you about.......

It has been a while since I last wrote something. Somehow the drive to do so has diminished. I guess me working and meeting lots of people now on a daily basis has greatly lessened my need to seek interaction online. It is not that nothing happens anymore.
I could tell you about how we got a lot of snow, about 60cm of it, followed by thaw, followed by another 60 or so. And still snow comes.
I could tell you about how we got a wooden sled for the dogs and how we tried that and ended up frollicking about in the snow with the whole family.
I could tell you about how Rex and Lester had their maiden-run, pulling someone on skis over the white expanses of a frozen lake.
I could tell you about how a flu can seriously cripple you, when trying to live as simple as possible, as I am experiencing right now.
I could tell you about the white wonders we have has and about how tired we are starting to get of it.

                                                   This was our place a month ago...

Ohh.... what the heck. Why not.
Got nothing better to do anyway. Well, I do actually, but I just can not. Even a short walk with the dogs leaves me breathless and fatigued. I have become homebound by a flu or a nasty string of a common cold, which has lodged itself into my airways, with all uncomfortable consequences. And so far only my wife has escaped this misery, our son actually getting downed twice!

But winter has been for real this year!
Like I said we had snow. Lots and lots of snow. It makes for pretty pictures and landscapes, completely transforms the landscape and since it is not really cold, only had one coldsnap down to -24C, it is quite enjoyable too. If you do not take into account all that snowshovelling we've been doing. But that's exercise during the cold months, so to speak. I had actually hoped to learn how to ski, but somehow that did not materialize. Short days, little sunlight, shovelling, heating the house, carrying and splitting wood, taking care of dogs, chickens and household AND a 25hr a week job...... leaves little time or energy to do anything else active. Next winter I will make sure that all the wood is ready cut and split, with a proper supply right next to and inside the house.
I have a feeling that winter will last at least well into march, the forecast showing cold and grey days into the beginning of next month. And I fear that as thaw will come eventually all that snow and ice will start to melt all at once. It'll get messy and wet. Well at least the drought issues will be solved for a while!

The days have been lengthening for 2 months now and spring equinox is only some 4 weeks away! But the absence of sunlight is getting to me, to us. Weather's been grey mostly, not many cold and sunny days. For the first time ever we are reaching for artificial help in the form of vitamin D tablets and these do help. But how we miss the sun!!
The birds hav started to stir. They call and flutter. It is quite noticeable after the silence of winter, but there are a lot less birds than other years. Their numbers and their flocks do not appear as big as previously. We have a couple of crows that has chosen ut garden as their residence. Our roosters keep a close eye on those two, when they come down to "feast" on whatever is left of the chickenfood, but so far the crows appear friendly. I don't mind. I kind of like them, but would have prefered ravens. Those I like even better.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

A snowshoeing trip.

Our host Olli
picture; Boel Engkvist
Last saturday saw another meetup f our local bushcraft group. This time the goal was a snowshoeing hikeup the Gyllbergen, a rise in a natural reserve near Borlänge. The weather was hard to forecast, with all the changes, but in the end all went well.
Had some minor snowfall on the way in, deep, fluffy and powdery snow, especially around the top and a touch of sunlight every now and then. Temperature was around -7C with some windchill at the top. Some of us, including me, had never or very scarcely walked on snowshoes and I thought to bring my old (antique) ones for the occasion, accompanied by poles at least as old.
For the occasion I dressed up in my army woolpants, t-shirt, wool sweater and winteranorak. However, in my rush to get away from home I forgot my Finnish winterhat and my mittens, so all I had was a thin knitted hat and fingergloves. A pair of those without the tops with thin knitted ones below that. I had brought my LK35, complete with a thermosflask of hot coffee, an army shovel with snowblade, cookingset, food and 1,5l of water. Of course my winterbelt and my the first aid kit. I had thought of tbringing a fleece blanket, but figured in case of an emergency 2 emergency blankets would suffice.
Olli, who arranged this trip, told us about the history of the reserve and I must say it really was a completely different landscape from when I was here first last year. I had never seen anything like it. Magically transformed by the snow, fairytale-like sculpted trees and snowdrifts. I felt overwhelmed and touched to my core. 
On the way to the top I started experiencing problems with my left snowshoe, because its front strap kept slipping of my foot all the time. The walking on those snowshoes itself felt quite easy actually, but the fact that the rest used narrow, modern ones made the going on my wide duckfeet a bit cumbersome, because I kept stepping on the edge of their trail. As we started to near the first stop, being the cabin, I took off my mine. I was holding up the group too much. I clasped the snowshoes to my chest with the sternumstrap of the lk35 and kept going without them in the trail. The going was pretty tough! Despite the whole group breaking trail before me, I sank down at least 20-30cm with most steps. The flow of those old things was quite good in hindsight!
During the hike the disc of one of the staves came off too and I immediately noticed the difference, becuase the stave just disappeared into the waistdeep snow. I could not find it anymore. Of course.... Panting and sweating I arrived as last at the shelter/cabin. During the rest there Marcus lent me 2 straps, so I could fasten the snowshoes properly and after that the problems were pretty much over. At least until we found a place to "camp".

picture; Marcus Östlin

picture; Marcus Östlin

picture; Boel Engkvist

picture; Boel Engkvist
Our merry group of snowshoe-ers.
picture; Boel Engkvist
picture; Boel Engkvist

picture; Boel Engkvist

At the campsite, some started trampling the snow and 2 of us, including me, broke out the snowshovels and dug a pit, large enough for us to sit around a fire. Here my second gearfailure occured. The steel thermosflask I had brought made clear why it ended up in a secondhand shop for me to buy. It had leaked like a sieve and the coffee was nowhere near warm anymore. Lukewarm at best. Maybe the rubber seal was not attached properly and maybe an axtra insulating layer might have kept the coffee warmer.
Everyone had brough one of two blocks of wood up with them, so plenty if firewood was present. Now that fire did cause some irritation and hilarity..... The wood was not really dry, so it smoked a lot. On top of that it was pinewood, so pretty resinous. And of course I sat on the exact wrong spot! Together with Marcus we got out meat smoked pretty decently. Excessively was more likely. Tears ran down our face and we twisted and turned in every which way, but in the end had to move away just to breath. In desperation I brought out my emergency snowgoggles, a pair of those celluloid foldable ones. They look ridiculous (if the comments and laughter were anything to go by), but they worked at keeping the smoke out of my eyes..... sort of. They actually are intended to prevent snowblindness in case of getting stuck.
The mood was generally merry and the food and campcoffee only enhanced that. There was a deal of clowning around and the ladies provided an even better atmosphere by singing a number of folksongs.

I really like Karin's round bottomed, castiron frying pan.
picture; Jonathan Sälg

picture; Marcus Östlin

smoking a ciga.... sausage?!
I got dubbed Ron Guevara...
picture; Boel Engkvist
The goggles in question
picture; boel Engkvist

There be snowgoblins in them hills!
Travellers beware!!
picture; Olli Niemelä
Then the sun started setting and it was time to pack up
And here it was that the troubling snowshoe failed completely. In an attempt to tighten the straps more, one tore off completely. The straps had become to old and brittle. I was now facing a 1,5km hike downhill in loose snow. But Olli came to the resque! He lent me hios modern snowshoes, so I could carry on. He was used to it anyway, he said, plodding through the deep snow. He's a bit taller then I am as well.
By the time we all were ready to go, my fingers had become real cold. Cold enough that I started worrying and I was eager to start going and get my circulation going. From experience I knew that that would pretty much solve my problem. Standing still would only increase it. Holding metal staves did not make things better, despite the grips, made from natural materials.
The way back was quite something too. At places steep downhill and a number of us got into difficulties, but managed to overcome those using non-standard solutions, so to speak.
It was only a few 100 meters to the skitrack, but it felt much longer. Same as the way in. I know it is wayyy shorter then it felt. Going under these conditions takes a lot, lot longer. The rest of the hike went over skitracks, which did hold a few surprises. Boel stepped into a deep hole and tipped forward. The kind of incident that might just snap your knee to pieces! Luckily she came away smiling. The snow simply gave way, despite the snowshoe.
In the end the parkingarea was reached with everyone in one piece and as far as I know I was the only one having experienced some trouble.

Picture; Magnus Brodén

picture by Olli Niemelä

The whole experience left me with an elated feeling! Not only the scenery and the fresh air, but also the feeling of belonging and of friendship made me feel..... human. It is those later feelings that I had missed those last years, but I really do feel we have a small group of people here that have found each other. Järngänget, as olli described it. The iron group or hard core.
Besides that the afore mentioned magical atmosphere and fairytale-like landscape really made this day special. A memory for life, even if it only lasted a few hours. My heartfelt gratitude toward all those involved and present for making this so!
What I also felt, was my body. Especially the lower half! For days!! Sore muscles, especially the inner thighs and I actually still do; my hipsjoints and right hamstring. A small price to pay, but I am actually less pleased by the gear failures. Those can cause some real problems. I need to go over it all and I have plans to redo the old, broken snowshoe(pair). The staves..... well, they will probably end up as staves when walking the dogs on icy roads.
But on the other hand I was really pleased to once more notice that my clothing-system held up. Despite having sweated a good deal I did not freeze, while others were forced to take off or even replace clothes due to sweating. They were wearing modern day jackets, that apparently had less capacity for ventilation. I was also pleased that the footwraps I tried held up in every way! They were comfortable and kept my feet warm, even during inactivity. And the shovel proved it's weight worth in gold. Not only was the area cleared pretty quick, but by making the blade angle with the handle, thrusting it into the snow and draping my sheepskin over it I had an in promptu seat, removing the necessity of sitting on the snow. Next time I'll bring a small foampad though, since my buttcheeks were a little sore afterwards. But the height is perfect for sitting comfortably!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Well..... that is done...

Winter solstice, christmas and New Year have passed. The season of festivities is coming to an end. Darkness is receeding, light is advancing with the lengthening of days.
We had decided to find new traditions, new ways for our family to spend these festive days. No more presents, no more christmas tree. Just qualitytime together with good food.
Wintersolstice I thought to honour by extinguishing all light in the house after darkness, build a swedish/Finnish torch, light it and then light one candle, bring that inside, have coffee and cookies and then spread the light through the house by lighting candles in all the other rooms. Or something along those lines....
But before the end of the year I saw 2 goals finally fullfilled; the acquisition of wooden sleds for the dogs and a foldable lantern for me.

But first things first......
The wintersolstice celebrations were cut short. I ended up working late, coming home tired with a bad cold developing.... After diner I just slumped in my chair and that pretty much was that, the rest of the household pretty much going about their usual business.
Christmas was supposed to be gift-, tree- and electronicfree..... Well, my wife broke the first idea by buying gifts still, albeit a small chest with boardgames, which is in tune with the idea I/we had. Plus some very small items for the kids. She did not want to leave them emptyhanded. My youngest daughter at first complained about it not being really christmassy without a tree, our oldest daughter agreeing. So the kids ended up with small, artificial christmastrees on their rooms.We did of course have some decorations, but lacked the time and inspiration or motivation to create some with actual sprucegreens. The absense of the scent of spruce proved to be a dealbreaker! Without it it just did not feel right. Amazing how a small detail like that works!
We still had good food and enjoyed being together, but somehow something lacked. I guess simply throwing overboard old things and introducing new things just doesn't work. It needs to grow.... and we need to pay more attention to details in order to make it work for all.
And the electronic bit..... I am afraid that only worked out, because of a seriously hampered connection, often being completely absent as the mobile network in our area failed. Having a powercut, most likely due to the combination of stormy weather and wet snow, snapping a tree somewhere during the evening of the 26th, in these parts of Europe still concidered to be one of the christmas days, helped "enforce" several intentions. It did however add to the general atmosphere... We had chicken in the over when everything went dark. Not a light in sight. And I remembered that years ago I got a gasfed grillplate as a christmasgift at IKEA. Had not used that at all. Untill now....
The evening was spent by candlelight, doing boardgames and reading and talking a little...

This powerout has me thinking down the prepping-line again. Something to focus on.

On the 30th I went on a little roadtrip. I was to collect 2 large wooden sleds near Uppsala and a belanted christmas present, sent to me by a very generous swiss gentleman, going by the name of Pascal. He and I have never met in person, but it is the same guy that sent me that Swiss army canteen a while ago. And this time there was something waiting for me that I had my eyes on for years; a Swiss army folding lantern. That one would be waiting for me near the city Västerås. A good way to see how my "new" car behaves..... As I past the area of Sala, the world turned green. No more snow!
The sleds have been a logistical project that started januari 2017. Someone sold a good number of these and together with a guy from Uppsala a few of these were purchased for a very good price. Problem was just that these sleds were way in the south with no one really wanting to drive all the way. Via via they ended up with said guy and now I could go and collect mine in Heby, roughly halfway to Västerås. Then I proceeded toward the second destination, which was a bit hard to find but find it I did..... And then I had christmas in the car.... I opened the package Pascal had sent me, found the folding lantern....... and a package of matching candles!! And 3 slabs of Swiss chocolate!!
I was really moved and had to blink hard several times. This was way more then I had bargained for...

And all the while the weather continues to be irratic and hopeless. Short spells of frost and thaw, snow and rain continue to follow one another..... but improvement seems to be on its way in the form of real winterweather; freezing temperatures. And I do hope it will stay like that for a while!!

Another thing that really is going well, is my new job. A good month into it and I am really enjoying myself. I love standing behind the counter and chat with customers! Never knew I knew so many people around these parts! And as a bonus I get paid every month, so we can really start building this place into the place we want it to be. After we have taken care of all the things that lag behind.... Most of our clothes are pretty worn out or too small. The kids have grown like cabbage these past few months! Decent shoes and winterclothes are a must.
Sometimes my head spins, when we are talking about and planning what we need to do. So many projects have been lying in wait..... But when you break them down into minor projects it doesn't seem as daunting anymore. Still a lot of work though.....
For now I will settle for a seedcatalogue.....

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A wintery bushcraft meeting

The weekend before last we had another bushcraft meet from the "local" branch of bushcraft Sverige. This time it was my turn to arrange things and I chose the charcoalkiln as a hostingsite. Given the time of the year weather might not be agreeable and there we'd have a roof over our head. Plus all the other advantages, such as a roomy firepit, a parking very close by and enoug woods to raom around in. I had chosen a subject for this meeting; warmth under difficult circumstances. I also was going to set them a challenge; the one match challenge. Make a fire with just your knife and one match. The weather cooperated nicely. The cold and frost had taken a step back. with temperatures hovering about freezing. Humidity was quite high and everything was icy, yet there was precipitation forecast.
At 10:00 I was on site, waiting for the others to show up. I did not need to wait long. I had given directions and marked the road with a bright pink air recognition panel. I got a fire going and hung a kettle with water over it to clean and boil it out.
By the time the kettle was clean, the first parfticipants started to come in, so time for coffee!!
Fortunately Olli had some more of his woodscoffee with him. He never lets one down.. ;) But I had a package myself too, so no shortages there! He also treated us to 2 cakes (you know Swedes and fika), but he also brought along some guests from work in order to introduce them to our way of outdoorlife.
More and more folks trickled in and by 11:00 we were complete

Photo by Boel Engkvist

Photo by Boel Engkvist
It was good to see a lot of familiar faces, but it was equally nice to meet new people. The group we have is steadily growing in size, which pleases me a great deal. That means somethig like this is needed and appreciated!
After the coffee and introductionround we set off to find material for the fires. And this is the main benefit of having a group. Not only can the chores be divided, you also have bundled knowledge and it always feels special, when you can teach someone your tricks and learn some new ones yourself in the proces.

Finding some fatwood or tjärved

Finding an entire stump of it!!

Dead, standing/leaning wood

Photo by Boel Engkvist

Picture by Salima Voloscuka
After this is was time for the task at hand; make your fire, using but your knife and one match. That means you have to have everything right, since you only got one chance. That means you have to focus on what you do and so, because you are focused, the proces gets stuck in your head, both failures and success. Preparing your fire is an essential skill, especially under these circumstances. Firewood is not readily available, getting it going is tough, but so is keeping it going! And your fingers get numb in this humid cold, so you have to watch out when handling your knife and that one match. It was great to see everyone so focussed, yet not all succeeded. Even the "old dogs" struggled and for me that meant a mission accomplished. Much was learned that afternoon and all involved realized the difficulty in it.

My wife paid us a short visit during this challenge, bringing along our oldest daughter and the dogs. And they too learned some lessons. For the dogs that meant dealing with a group of people and another dog! 
She tasted woodscoffee....
.....and they didn't want to go home....

After the challenge it was back to the firepit for some lunch, more coffee and more talk! Between bites, and there were many since not only did everyone bring their own food and Olli from Swetrek treating us to the earlier mentioned cakes, but Sali had brought a large pastery of dough and feta-cheese, whereas Boel treated us to some dark chocolate! 
We discussed all sorts of subjects, not just the one we tried. Marcus brought along some material to make charcloth like tins and cottonfabric. We tried flint & steel and as a bonus Olli showed us how to make a Swedish/Finnish torch. The discussion about its origins still rages on...!!

Photo by Boel Engkvist

Photo by Boel Engkvist

Photo by Boel Engkvist

Photo by Boel Engkvist
And then..... right at the end... we received an absolutely fitting encore! It started to snow. Big heavy flakes wafting down, immediately transforming the atrmosphere. All went silent and I am always amazed at the effect this has. It instantly creates a dreamy, almost failrytale-like atmosphere, yet with a chilling undertone....
Picture by Salima Voloscuka

Photo by Olli Niemelä
By 15:00 hours it was time to say goodbye. Some had a longer trip ahead of them and being on the road during snow, thaw on icy surfaces when dark settles in... It takes longer and a lot more effort.
I waited till everyone had gone, packed up my things, made a last round to make sure everything was as it shoukd be, stared into the fire a few more moments and then poured over the water from the jerrycans I had brought with me. A large column of vapour bellowed up through the trees and with that I thanked the spirits for granting us such a good time here.

A massive thank you to all that participated!
You made this day special!