Friday, February 12, 2016

Canning - making your own MRE's.

MRE's stands for Meals Ready to Eat, by the way.

The weather has been appalling lately. We've been hit by another warm spell and it has been thawing pretty hard. On top of that did we get rain these last few days, so our world now is one of water and ice. Preferably on top of one another on the roads and paths one tends to walk on. We slip and slide our way through the days in the most literal kind of way.....

So what do you do in all this wet, grey, bonebreaking dreariness? You find yourself in the kitchen, keeping warm at the furnace and rejoice because you have found a meaningfull way to pass the time. At least that is what happened to me. I thought it necessary to combine a few things; learn how to can, making sure there is a supply of meals ready to go, just in case (of an emergency or laziness) and use a pile of food and leftovers that were reaching their limit of freshness and usefulness.
I decided to do a batch of Dutch brownbeanstew with shriveled apples and a leftover bag of brown beans and another batch of beanstew with leftover packages of white and kidney beans and a kilo of minced meat we had to cook previously, because otherwise it would have gone bad.

Soo...... let the experiment begin!!
Well, actually I know how to cook, so afternoon one was spent preparing both stews. I prepared the beans as usual; soaking them overnight and then cooking them and let them cool down, while I walked the dogs. This way the beans do not fall apart later on.
Then I prepared the rest of the ingredients by cutting them and stir frying them, after which I put beans and the rest together. I did not further heat or cook this, but set it aside! The flavours will blend more during the canning process..... hopefully.

The first thing with canning is preparation of equipment.
Checking if you have everything you need and that everything is in working order. Our cooker for instance. We bought the thing quite a few years ago and by that time it was already quite old. From the 70's, judging by the design and components used. It is a fairly basic utensil; a large metal kettle on top of a heating element, worked by 2 clocks, one for temperature and one for timing. Our timingclock does not work properly anymore. It stops running when it reaches the final half hour. We know that and take that into account (and of course forget about it too!).
Next are the glasses, rubber seals and clamps. Check them thoroughly for cracks, chips or damages as these will become an issue, when the heat and pressure are on. A small crack in a jar might cause it to burst open and that would not only ruin your meal, but your day as well if you are handling it. Dried or faulty rubber seals will compromise the airtightness of the jar and thus the food will spoil.
There are many varieties in jars, lids and clamps, but in general it is fairly easy to switch around. Except for the Weck-brand. These have quite specific jars and such, which will only fit onto themselves.

After that is done I always wash the jars and lids with soapy water, rinse them thoroughly and sterilise them in a hot oven (150C) for 40 minutes. The rubber seals are cooked in clean water for 5 minutes. The fact that I was expecting company for which my wife baked cookies, meant that the oven was in use and had the right temperature already....
After that it is a fairly simple process: fill the jars with the food. I fill them to the brim and press the food down a little. Then add seals, lid and clamp after you have wiped clean the rims and take away any spillage. As for the cooking times, we follow the recipe in the book. We're not that experienced.

After this you need to let the jars cool down with the clamps still on!! That will create the airtightness/vacuum. Once they are cooled and the clamps are removed, try lifting the jars at the lid. Carefully! If the process went wrong, the lid will come off.

Now the downside of this whole enterprise; it costs a lot of energy in the form of electricity. And that the nutritional value of the food is not as high as with fresh food or maybe even food processed in other ways. And that it runs on electricity... True.
If you consider that you only use a lot of energy once and if done right the food will keep for months or even years. No freezing or cooling required.
You always have food ready to be warmed up in case you forget to thaw out meat or are not able or willing to prepare whole meals. In this case only energy for warming the food is required.
Pretty much everything I used was about to spoil or were leftovers. So instead of throwing food away I kept it. No waste and saving on spending money on buying food. and this is the way I plan on using this equipment; for keeping food that is about to spoil longer. Like halfway through the winter, when some of the harvest has lost its freshness......
And if you do it on cold days, it'll warm your kitchen up quite nicely.
We have a complete backup set to be used on a (woodfed)stove too.

So far we have canned;
Soup with vegetables and meat
A chickenstew with pineapples and raisins. The taste was not as great as usual (to me), but still quite tasty.
Carrots in brine
and now adding 2 sorts of bean stew, carrots in ginger/lemon brine and red cabbage.

This amounted to about 5 or more dozen of jars so far and we had not one we kept fail us, yet.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

a shopping spree... or prepping??

My first paycheck came in!
And I went on a shopping spree!!

Yeah, yeah... I can hear you.... thinking ;"Damn idiot! Always complaining about scraping to get by and now you blow your cash or something like that. And it's true. I do not want to keep m money in my pocket or bank account for that matter. What good does it do there? Except giving bankers more means to do their wicked thing.
On the other hand have we become so accustomed to living cheap that spending all that money on essentials basically still feels like we are splurging it all over the place. Not an easy thing to do; handing out the cash.

The reasons for that?
1) Because we always spend our "excess" cash on supplies, we get by in those lean times.
2) Because I have completely lost faith in the bankingsystem, where they can take away ALL your money at the click of a mouse, just to save themselves. Or simply shut down any and all financial transaction possibilities in a matter of hours. And they can do so LEGALLY! Any idea what that means???
3) Because things like this have already been happening in southern Europe, where people started taking out their money from their deposits and the banks simply closed down, allowing NO ONE access to their own cash. Then what?
We got a good spook when we had issues paying for our things in the first store we were in. A simple glitch in the connection between store and bank and the system went down like a house of cards!
And they are pressing hard to make Sweden a cash-less society!!

So for these reasons I believe it is better to take my money and spend it. Spend it on supplies, tools etc. Things that will help us to get through a crisis, even if the banks shut down.... which I do believe might happen at any time now. This way spending becomes investing in the best way possible. Not to create more money, but to create means to live and thrive.
Secure your supply, not your stocks.
Better to have an empty bank account and a well stocked pantry than v.v.

Now some tips or suggestions that I think might be worth considering. When you (or I) go to spend that cash, think not only in short terms, but also in middle length and long terms. Get supplies that will get you through the initial crisis. Then get supplies that will enable you to go on after that immediate crisis situation. And then get supplies that will enable you to go on in the long run. And most important of all; invest in knowledge!! No use in buying seeds, if you do not know how to use them or have the means to see you through the growth season until it is time to harvest. Not wise to invest in some expensive hitech waterfilteringsystem if you do not know how to operate or maintain it with the means you have.
So divide your needs in a "now"-list, a "later" or "this season/year"-list and a "after that"-list. What will you need?
Food of course and water. But you very soon will need a way to get drinkable water after that soon.
Food might last awhile, a month or so, but what then?
Clothes? Heating? Constructions or repairs? Something as basic as a hammer and 2-3 boxes of nails might or probably will become worth their weight in gold, even if that does keep its value. A hoe, a spade or a scythe too.

And buying gasoline might be a good idea, even if you are not planning on going anywhere.
Besides, a rolling car might be a very obvious target, when things turn really bad.
But you can always use that fuel to barter with. There will always be someone around, who has freezers and a generator or keeps running a car despite the odds and they will sooner or later run out of fuel. In that case a 20 liter can of fuel might become very, very valuable and might give you a few kilos of frozen food for example.
And for the time being you can make that fuel part of a rolling stock, for as long as you want or can. This way it will not spoil, will keep your car going and your stock will not diminish. You can even use your car+battery as a makeshift powerstation!

Do not spend cash to stock up on toothpaste, shampoos and showergels, when a few containers of bakingsoda (natriumbicarbonat) will do just the same thing for a fraction of the price. Plus it has much more uses than previously mentioned chemicals, that just pollute your immediate (living)area.
We do buy toothpaste of course, but if we run out and have no means to resupply, we can always fall back on plan B, of which the ingredients don't go bad and have multiple other purposes. Did you know that baking soda + vinegar makes a good declogging agents for your sink?
These 2 have many other uses as well of course and as such are a part of a rotating stock anyway.

One thing puzzles me a bit though. How about toiletpaper? Call me silly, but how did folks do it before the age of toiletpaper? I guess they squatted down and went about their business, but with current sanitary facilities that would not work.... well. How about women's "monthly issues"? Anyone out there who can enlighten me on that? I live with 3 of them, so it is something worth looking into.....

So..... what did I blow my dow on?
First of all..... a pile of bills of course *sigh*, but also on a car full of food. The mrs. and I took our youngest daughter and went on a grocery shopping spree. After 6 hours and an equally large amount of stores we came home with a car full of supplies. At least our pantry is restocked again. One of the issues we faced here was to get food that we a) use on a daily basis, b) has a reasonable shelf life and c) is no crap food. Turns out that you need to compromise quite a bit.... You'll often end up with processed food with very short ingredientslist. Right now we can't be too picky. But you can also buy in bulk and process yourself. That way you have at least some control over what you eat.
Seeds and tools I already have, so no need to stock up on those, but I will set aside some cash for plant purchases in spring. Some red currant bushes and hazel are on the "want"-list as well as a planned section of the garden that needs to be filled with edible perennials. I helped with the fundraising for a book in Swedish on just those, which should end up in our mailbox coming april or so.
We also got our kids a head torch and flashlight each, all using the same kind of rechargeable batteries and of course a load of batteries to match. They need those when going to school and coming home. Our own flashlights use the same type of batteries and we phased out all that other, cheap junk that uses all sorts of batteries. Streamlining logistics. Maybe a small solarpanel to hook up to the recharger?
I bought candles, lampoil, cookingset fuel, and 2 extra 20L jerrycans and over the next few weeks I'll be adding wood (for heating), timber (for beehives, rabbit cages etc), fencing for dogs and chickens. And assortment of nails and screws will find their way here too.

I also took my teenage son shopping for clothes. That sounds worse than it actually was. Much to my own surprise too! It turned out to be a very relaxed shopping trip with us finding a good deal of the things he needed; all bought in 1 secondhand store. Many of the clothes he found still had the tags attached to them, so were basically new! He also has a style I like and recognize... ;) Some stuff for me ended up in the bags as well. Whenever I come across a pair of real woolen socks, gloves or sweather or a (seemingly) good book, I can not pass them by....
After that we went groceryshopping and I used the opportunity to show him what we think you should look for, when you buy groceries; pricetags, ingredientlists, ecologically/locally produced or not, shop layout and salestricks used to get you to buy more than you need. And eat before you go into a store!

Even the purchase of and investment in a second dog has more than 1 reason. First of all, besides the completely and utterly selfless act of rescuing of a dog in distress (uhuh, right.......), Rex needed a buddy. The reasons are manyfold. He needed to socialise, but also have someone around in case he gets left alone at home for a short period of time. This will make us more mobile, because we do not need to watch the dog all the time. More mobility means more opportunity to go to work for both of us or to go and get whatever it is we need. It also means he gets to play a whole lot more, thus exercises and thus enhances his physical condition, which makes him healthier. Having a second dog also greatly enhances his mental health.
You might also have noticed that both are working dogs and I work towards being able to utilise their specific talents whenever the need should arise. Dragging a sled or cart full of firewood or meat out of the forest might be one of those scenarios.
And last but not least..... they are just great to have around and to enjoy their company and that is good for all of us!

Another "must" right now is another car. I shamefully admit it. I need another one. The Volvo is beyond repair. It was not only mechanical. That would've been fixable within reasonable means.... sort of. The main issue was an electronic one; the entire dashboard stopped working properly. No fuel gauge, no tachometer and above all no speedometer! Coupled with a blinker that did not work, an exhaust that leaked, 2 coils that were broken and 2 tires that needed immediate replacement AND frontseats that were so worn, they'd give you some serious discomfort. Its fuel efficiency was not too good either, plus one of the rearlights would have to be replaced since it had faded to a light pink, thus no longer giving a red light as required. Too long a list to spend time and money on.
So I am thinking; do I buy a cheap but old, ramshackled 2 seater combi for a few pennies or do I invest on a large 4x4?
The choice seems very easy, when you do not think about family logistics here. The kids are outgrowing our current car. It is starting to get pretty cramped on the backseat lately. Plus there are 2 additional family members that need extra space in the boot with a matching cage, a must around here. The roads are not to good either, especially during winter season and the time thereafter. Potholes, tons of loose gravel and rutting on the road, not to mention the occasional boulder that resurfaces after frost, might spell trouble for your regular citycar.
That would mean taking a small loan to buy a large fuelinefficient 4x4. You can see my dilemma here!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The police - your friend in need?

No, this will not be a rant against law enforcement, because I got a ticket or something. And this has nothing to do with woodsbumming or homesteading or what not, but it is something that has been bugging me, worrying me for some time and I just had to get it off my chest.

It'll be something much more worth thinking about; the role of law enforcement in today's society and the dilemmas many of the people behind the uniform are dealing with, fighting with every single day.

We hear and see many stories or reports on police and law enforcement these days. Many of them are bad, some of them are good.
Police in the US of A are often the ones on the "not good"-side with shootings, killings and wanton violence used and shown by them. Here in Sweden the highest ranking officer declared a solidarity with the perpetrator (of a non-native origin) after he knifed down a woman in the back and in Danish media there are officers claiming that they will do as told, when politicians decide to search incoming refugees for valuables and taking those away from the people. In Paris, France policemen showed up en masse in order to quell any form of gathering by protesters, but leaving other gatherings completely alone. And the list goes on and on.....
Often those seem to be the actions or decisions of individuals, but with all those stories combined a pattern emerges. An ugly, dangerous pattern. It seems that legitimate, honest and honorable policemen have gradually, but continuously been replaced by goons, thugs and people with lower moral standards. Servants that are bound to their master's fait, either by stance, by character or by enforced dependence.

Policemen in Sweden are also under pressure and maybe even under attack! Stories about policemen complaining or outright quitting their jobs are numerous, because it is impossible for them to do their job in ways that match their code of honour and their conscience. And I do get the feeling that it is not just the workload, but also the rules and guidelines enforced upon them by politicians through their own superiors within the force. It has gone so far that policemen openly criticize their high ranking superiors, which might as well be a death sentence for any further career.

It feels like many of the good guys and gals are being bullied into leaving the korps, making room for those that are willing to do their master's bidding without questioning, without thinking about morals and ethics or to just create a base of power for themselves. People with that attitude, armed, in a position of power and backed up by their superiors..... We have seen it happen before and we know the consequences.
Ever wondered why police forces everywhere are being equipped with military or military grade hardware??? That's control/suppression of the masses, not law enforcement.

Being a former officer myself I have seen it happen; regular officers revolting against their superiors or leaving the force, simply because power hungry, autocratic or people with otherwise questionable motives or stances called the shots and those were regularly incompatible with the codes of honor and conscience of the regular blue coat on the streets.
I have seen the gradual, but noticeable decline in professional integrity within the force.

There are many of the good ones trapped within this institution. Forced to remain and endure the dubious or outright wrong doings of their colleagues or superiors. Forced, because they too are providers for their families, because they too need to pay bills and get food on the table or because they feel that they not only need to fight crime on the streets, but within the force itself!

As for me I have a hard time seeing all these negative images around the police. I still hold the profession and those within those uniforms in very high regard. It is a very tough job and a respectable and honourable one too and I wish we could figure out a way with which we could keep it that way, but that would require a total redesign of our current political and social system. yet I do feel that each and every "good cop" has a responsibility and a moral obligation to stem the downfall of their profession, just as everyone one else has that in order to stem the downfall of our society. After all cops are just as human as we are.

Do not judge a person for the uniform (s)he is wearing, but also remember a police(wo)man might uphold the law, but that does not automatically mean (s)he is serving justice as well!

Sunday, February 7, 2016

An experiment in food preservation; fermentation.

The other day I was chatting with Odd and the conversation turned from his ideas about making pemmican via the practical difficulties in obtaining ingredients, like tallow to lost knowledge about how to prepare and above all keep food.
That prompted me to head for one of our bookshelves here at home. We have a lot of (old) books on the subject of older knowledge regarding food; growing, preparing and conserving.
I decided to expand my horizon by conducting some experiments. One would be lacto fermentation.

Other experiments included more canning of ready meals and drying of fruit. A pineapple in this case, since our son loves those. However the fresh pineapple did not last long enough to get dried. It ended up in a chickenstew recipe and as fresh fruit/dessert. Much better that way, anyway.
The fermentation experiment did go through, as I found 2 simple recipes with ingredients we had, used on a daily basis or were very cheap to get, but still on our everyday menu; white cabbage, carrots and onions. The recipes come from a book that was mentioned/discussed on Ben Hewitt's blog. It is called "preserving food without freezing or canning", a very important detail to us, since it requires little or no external sources of energy to keep.
The first recipe was plain and simple sauerkraut and the other was coleslaw.

This was also a good opportunity to use (and show) our lowtech, lowenergy kitchentools.
First the cuttingmachines. We have 2, a smaller one, which has a 1950's vintage and I just love the design. It works very well and holds up to this day. High quality... We also have a bigger one, probably from the 70's. Quality is not as good. Compressed woodfibres instead of solid wood for example, but it still does what it is supposed to do; it cuts.... very smoothly and very thin if necessary.

The second tool is made of simple punched sheetmetal and we use it almost daily for grinding almonds, nuts, hard vegetables and fruits etc. It does not wotk with onions that well though. It comes with several discs of varying sizes in cut, strips or chips. A lot older than I am, too.

After about an hour of cutting, experimenting and trying out "kitchenlogistics", we had 5 jars filled; 2 with coleslaw and 3 with sauerkraut. We will know if and how this worked out in a month or so....
We made 2 large bowls with white cabbage; one, containing the finer cut cabbage, is for the lessons in preserving. The other, courses cut cabbage, is our substitute for spaghetti. Yup, we use white cabbage instead of wheatbased spaghetti. Tastes better and is a lot healthier too!

I'll get back to the canningprocedure in a later post.... but I need to show off my wife's ingenuity.
What to do if your workingarea is or will be taking up by tools, bowls and ingredients, but you need to read recipes? You look for inspiration in higher places....

She took a clotheshanger, one that is just to hang skirts I think, and fasten the book. Then you take a piece of kitchenstring, tie that across the "meatcrown", (it is called that in Dutch. No idea what the English name is...) and hang the hanger from that.

Right in front of your face, no room lost and no dirty stains or spilling on the book!

All this foodbusiness made me also take a closer look at our foodcellar. I had never realise that there were different temperaturezones and as a result we had been storing our food oín the wrong places. Well, not necessarily wrong, since nothing got spoiled yet, but rice doesn't need to be stored near the floor, but fresh vegetables do. And store bought and prepacked cheese keeps a lot longer than the printed best-for-date if you keep it cool and away from (day)light. I also noted that our foodcellar does have 2 vents; one coming in on the northeast side and one going out through the house's ventilation system on the roof. With one or 2 minor tweaks I can easily get both cold air in at groundlevel, create circulation and venting warm, moist air out again.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Just walking the dog(s)

As I am writing this, Lester is lying a few feet away from me, suffering from the change in diet he had to go through. He is emitting vapors and fumes that make my screen buckle, the keys turn soft and my vision turns bright green at times. Yeah, yeah... poor dog...
And all I wanted to do, is show you some pics, which I think are neat....
Ohh the things I have to endure in order to please a crowd.....

Had a little episode with the "boys" yesterday. They got into a serious disagreement over a bone which turned physical/violent and instinctively I made THE nr.1 newbie mistake; I got in between...... Only some minor damages to one hand, but a very clear reminder not to do that again!!! I was the only one with damages by the way. On the other hand I get free medical care and vets are insanely expensive around here... ;) But I also did show them who was the alfa and that he did not tolerate any such behaviour!

But hey...look at all the pretty pictures!!!

Too bad winter has lost its bite already. The icy sting has left the air and we even had a stormy night! The dry powdery snow has turned into slush and the new snow falls with a wet heaviness. Or as plain rain. Days and nights of thaw and frost follow each other in rapid succession and there is no sign of improvement. Under these conditions I want winter gone, but we still have more than 2 months ahead of us before real spring will arrive.......

All my boys together.... 

Today I got to witness pack pecking order at work! Lester was trying Rex' patience and again he got told off quite clearly. When Lester showed signs of not obeying me and I had to change my tone of voice, Rex would quickly step in as well, as if he was telling this youngster to "snap it up. Alfa's telling you!". Amusing, but unnecessary. Rex has to learn a bit about pack life too, I guess. Or is this normal behaviour?? So much to learn here.....
Lester's behaviour is changing already. He is adapting quickly. And he is becoming vocal too, showing that typical talkativeness huskies are known for. Another thing I am sensing is that the arrival of Lester did something on a deeper level too. There is a sense of balance now.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Not Odd...... but Lester!

Well, you might've guessed it; my planned trip to Norway was cancelled....
The reason? There were several. Of course. The first one is that we, quite unexpectedly, got a new family member! Yes, that's right! I'll tell you more about him later. When I was sick last week, I spent some time online and found what I thought would be a great buddy to Rex and he was the right type of dog too. That was on a tuesday. Esther contacted the owner, since I a) hate to make phonecalls and b) have issues communicating (hearing/understanding/be understood) via that media. Or most likely a because of b.... whatever.. Anyway, she made an appointment for last sunday...
Another reason was that the day after said tuesday, that'd be a wednesday, she came home, waving a jobcontract! Yes, she is now working fulltime as a substitute until july! Woohooh! But combined with the fact that our kids do not have their sports/winter-break in february, as usual, but in march, that would mean nobody at home with the dogs. And that was a no-go for us.
Odd and I talked it over and he figured it would be a good idea to stay away from the mountains anyway, given the longterm weather forecast with predicted temperatures as low as -25C... Acoording to him no fun to be above the treeline in those temperatures. So we picked a new date in the first week of march. By then the dogs will have become used to each other and there will be someone at home with them and Esther could plan a day or 2 off if needs be.
However things turned out very differently. Odd had to call off the entire enterprise, due to circumstances beyond his control. Hopefully we can meet up sometime this summer. The weather is not playing along nicely either. Instead of the forecast coldspell we got a spell of exceptionally mild weather!
Thaw hit us pretty hard and the snow vanished rapidly. Many parts of wooded areas are practically snow free and elsewhere too. However all that water had no place to go, since the ground is still rock hard and as icing on the cake that water refroze during the nights. Conditions on the ground became pretty bad, as I had to experience quite brutally twice so far. No broken bones, only bruises and painful joints and muscles. No conditions in which I would like to drive to Norway.
Enough with the blabbering and complaining.....
We did take a road trip last sunday though; the mrs. and me. Toward Örebro, the 6th largest city in Sweden. We were going to have a look at that buddy for Rex! Our daughters were pretty excited about the prospect of having another dog. Our son was much less enthusiastic.... He's been developing a much less positive view on things and has a more angry and bad tempered attitude as of late. I hope it has to do with him "becoming of age" and that that'll pass. We do notice some behaviour patterns though that we can retrace into his lineage.....
Anyway we left the house to the kids for 5-6 hours. By now they can take care of it, themselves and the animals for so long and we were off. As we reached the city it became obvious that the address was smack in the middle of the city centre; an apartment block and the dog lived on one of the upper floors. Why do people do this? A husky/malamute in such a place???
We met the owners of Lester as they came out with him; a jumpy, joyous bundle of energy. It was obvious that the young man holding the leash was struggling. I asked if I could hold the dog and I felt why; this puppy was strong!!! And full of bundled up energy. The dog felt good. No aggression, no fear, no dominance toward humans. He was in good physical shape and seemed to be in good mental shape too. A glad young dog, living with a loving family, but absolutely in the wrong place. The family had come to realise that too.
We finished out business, they said farewell to Lester and we put him into the car. He was quite calm during the 2,5hr drive home, but we did stop to let him get some fresh air and motion.

The introduction at home to the kids went very well. No signs of domination or other unwanted feats either. Then came the big moment; Rex was to meet Lester. And much to our delight no trouble there either!! No fighting, no biting, no growling. Just a lot of jumping, turning and sniffing. A relief!!
The evening was a hectic one, as was to be expected and we did see some struggles for dominance erupt. So far Rex is the boss, but he makes no big deal of it so far. He asserts his dominance, but with little or no vigor. I think Lester will take over, when he becomes and adult. He already is larger than Rex and much stronger physically. Lester is continually challenging him, trying to get the upper hand in their wrestling and playing, snatching away Rex' bones and toys and peeing frequently (as was to be expected). I told the kids to assert their dominance over Lester and told them to go and take away his bones and toys. They did so without showing hesitation and there was no response from Lester. He sat down and waited obediently until they returned the bone or toy, when they wanted to. He knows his place so far.

The final challenge were the cats. Lester had never lived with cats before..... And once again, no aggression there either. He was too daring once and got smacked in the nose by Eddy, our black cat. He kept his distance after that, checking him out with at least 1 meter in between them. Karel did not budge at all, staring Lester down. All in all the introduction into our little "pack" went much smoother than expected.
The dogs played and wrestled all night until the stresses of the past day became noticeable and even Lester calmed down.

When Esther and I walked the dogs we noticed that Lester was not accustomed to countrylife! He went this way and that, was obviously intrigued by a stream with running water and spooked by spruce twigs brushing along his reflective vest. We have a sneaking suspicion Lester had never been outside the city before! That got confirmed this morning as I had to walk them both myself. Lester pulled his head out of the collar, freeing himself and went ballistic. He ran all over the place, chasing Eddy into a tree and refused to even respond to me calling his name. We noticed before that he does have some obedience issues, so we need to work on that right away. We might even have to rename him, since the response to his name is virtually non-existent. After he had finally calmed down and I had been able to catch him, he was unwilling to follow my lead and I had to physically show him who's in charge. I actually had to push him onto the ground, lay on top of him and even bite him in the ear!!

Elsa took this picture with her phone and enhanced it. Scary how fast kids learn to use these things and how hard it is to get them to put those phones down.

So far we noticed that Rex calls Lester to order frequently, that Rex does show signs of envy (we know that, when it came to the cats, but now it became even more obvious) and that they seem to like each other. After initial dominance was established, they played a lot together. So that goal seems to be reached already.
Lester shows no sign of animosity to either one here; human, dog or cat. He is not only friendly, but gentle and has a much calmer disposition than Rex. Yes, he is skinny. But so was Rex. He, like him, will have to grow up completely, before he will build muscle mass. And because he too is till young, we can acclimatise him first, before we start using his carrying or pulling capacities.
He has a wonderfully soft fur. Not as long or as coarse as Rex, which isn't really coarse either, but stiffer and a lot longer and when we walk the boys, Lester tends to put his flank towards Rex'.
He has one big advantage of Rex and that is that he had a family that cared and that did give him some form of upbringing. But the similarities are equally striking; woefully wrong type of dog in the wrong kind of living conditions, lack of upbringing, lack of accustomisation to the outside world, down to the, to me, absolutely wrong kind of toys. Yes, Lester came with the same set of toys Rex had; plastics, a rubber duck and stuffed animals..... And he does seem to have a small defect in his right eye; it faces outward.

Now how was that for an introduction???
I had time to write this, because they were asleep and I guess they noticed I was about done! They have come alive again!!

Monday, January 25, 2016

wondering about the birds and the bees....

There seems to be a lot less birds in the garden this year
Not as many domherre, talgoxe and blåmes. Grönfink seems to be lesser in numbers too. Only a few gulsparv.
Much more gråsiska, saw a flock of stjärtmes, but no sidensvans anymore.
Hackspett pair is here, as is a pair of nötvecka.
All in all far less birds this winter.....
Something else that was missing, were tracks. I saw very little tracks of deer, compared to other years, but the most notable absence was the absence of moosetracks. I saw 1 (!) set of tracks so far and that was in the area I dubbed moose-alley a few years ago.

And I wonder how the bees are coping with the cold. It has been a relatively dry cold, but a fierce one too. I just hope I will be having my bees this year.

On the other hand, something that was very notable in its presence was the moon this time. A full moon again and our pets went nuts! Very keyed up and very restless. Much more so than normally during a full moon.
But Luna also showed herself in other ways. The day before full moon we were walking Rex late at night and the moon was up there, pouring its silver light over a white and frozen landscape; everything eerily still, as if frozen in time and so brightly lit it was almost daylight! A Swedish, full moon winter landscape in its truest sense.
Yet the day after full moon she showed herself in a totally different guise. This time she was butter yellow as she was rising over the treetops. There were large, sharply edged banks of fog floating over the land and lakes and the moon again casts sharp shadows.... but there was no light! The real cold had gone too.
I unwillingly thought of the sun rising in a black sky, which sucked up all the light radiating from the sun. Very unnerving, really.

Today I saw one of our hunting neighbours circling the fox-den site with his dog. I guess the fox' days are numbered. I feel sad about that really, despite the fact that that might prevent an issue arising with the henhouse.

We'll be having a very mild week this week. Thaw, predicted temperatures up to +4-5C for several days in a row and rain. That'll be fun on a frozen underground... not. But is is also nice to have a warm spell. Helps you relax a little and it will mean that the hole that the coldsnap has blown into our woodpile will not become that much larger.

And my cold lingers on, drains me of my energy, ruining my shape. I am always surprised how something like a normal cold can incapacitate or limit one.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Smells like....

As I am writing this I am fighting a annoyingly decent cold. So much fun what the kids, or in this case their substituting mom, bring home from school!
Well, it had to happen sooner or later. And it gives me time, though not energy, to read. Which is a good thing, because this week there was a package from the US of A in the mail. It was a book Kristina, or Bee as I like to call her, from the Beehappeenow-blog, that she had sent me. The reason for this is that, while reading Ben Hewitt's then we'd have pie post I commented on a post that had a quote of Stephen Jenkinson in it and I remarked that the book it came from, Die wise, sounded interesting.So she wanted to send that one to me. The shape of the package was a bit odd though.... Turns out there was another book in there too: Don Miguel Ruiz' The voice of knowledge! But the icing on the cake was the very sweet, handwritten card she had included. Once more it goes to show that you can make and have friends through the internet. As if I needed proof of that.... I sure do hope I can add her to the list of internet-friends I got to see in real life, too!

On a more mundane, daily note; I saw a pair of whooper swans, locally know as sångsvan or Cygnus cygnus fly over yesterday. I could hear their honking long before I could see them. Their white blended in well with the whites and greys of the snow and sky. I stood there, watching them as they passed over at low altitude, wondering what the heck they were doing here, because there is no open water to be found, when all of a sudden sky and earth changed places and I crashed into the frozen ground. I was walking Rex, he had seen or caught scent of something, so he went off and the line had caught my left foot. The rest must've looked like in a cartoon movie, I guess.

And the subject of scent brings me to another little episode; last year's neighbours are back. Meaning the foxden on the other side of the street is occupied again. Last spring we did see 3 fox cubs playing there in the sun and we thought it was great to have them living there. Now things are slightly different, since they will be no more than 25 meters away from the chickencoop, when that materialises. And that is too close for comfort for me. And for the chickens 'n rabbits too I guess. I contemplated about telling our neighbour about it, since he hunts fox, but decided not to. Instead I will visit the den's entrance daily with Rex, leaving our scent right in front of the fox' front door, hoping it will encourage him to move and go live elsewhere. So far no need for putting a chunk of hot metal through his chest.

Standing on the mound, looking down..... and when I turn around 180 degrees.....
across the road, up the hill.

The scent of cookies is filling the house right now. Esther's baking Heffalump-cookies for her birthday, today. Yep, heffalump, as in Winnie the Pooh's Heffalump movie (big Pooh-fan here! And that sounds.... off, somehow). In the extras there is a recipe included and Esla, our youngest one, wanted to give those a try.... And they are soooo.. good!
The only problem is that they do no good to me. If I eat too many, and it really does not take that much, honestly, I feel not well and I get physical...... issues. I did notice that (was hard not to!) after the december month with all the festiveness and extra "good" food. Ever since I quite sugar ad avoid grains, my body reacts in ever severe ways, when I relapse. A month with cookies and goodies, pastries and chocolate left my health in a wanting state. Goes to show what crap I have been stuffing down my piehole all my life. But the festive season is over, so back to a normal feeding-routine. A fat incoming paycheck will help keeping cheap junkfood at bay, too.

Have a good day, y'all and you really should pay attention to what you eat. It'll make you feel so much better!!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Patterns in the snow

First of all, you might have noticed; The blog is changing and has been changed.
I chose a temporary new name, until I come up with a better one, but this is what came up now. I also changed the layout, because that fits me better these days. It is a pattern that has been showing already and speaking of patterns, I found some in the garden lately.
One is the pattern of the garden layout I have been constructing and with the fresh snow collapsing into itself, that pattern was showing beautifully in the rising sun.

The other one is one I have mixed feelings about. This is made by a vole, It is beautiful in its randomness, but it might also spell trouble. Trouble for the plants in our garden. Luckily it is just this one pattern and not many, like we had in the beginning. Our cats and the regular cutting of the grass took care of that.

And winter just keeps on being cold and wonderful in its beauty.

As I went home from work this morning, the sun rose over the lake, next to the town of Säter...

And this is one of my absolute favorites of all time!

Some more patterns

Friday, January 15, 2016

Life in a deep freeze....

Well, winter has finally settled in around here and for real! First the temperature started dropping and we got the most wonderful hoarfrost. So much so that at one point it looked as if snow had fallen. And the air was so cold that any incoming moisture fell down as snowflakes. More then once there was snow in the air, while the sun was out too and that created strange, yet beautiful scenes and atmospheres.
The dark pictures are not taken at sunset, but during the days, when a cloud of snowflakes was blocking out the sun.

The temperature kept dropping and we hit -24C. Below -20C it becomes a whole new ballgame. This is cold that actually hurts. It bites you in your cheekbones, nips at your nostrils and make you squint your eyes involuntarily. It was just an incidental drop or so I thought. This morning we broke our coldest-yet-record since we moved here; -26C! Walking the dog in that is no fun. I decided to do a little experiment last night, during the late walk; No extra protective clothing, just the regular cityfolk clothes in winter; Jeans, a thick coat that makes you look like a balloon, knitted hat and scarf and mittens. And I learned the painful way that you do not stand a chance in that kind of clothing oúnder these conditions. Sheesh, my legs were painfully cold from the moment I stepped outside (big surprise here), but also the rest failed to keep me comfortably warm. The pants might have given some form of insulation if I had not moved, but not moving would be disastrous. And it only was -24C last night.This morning at -26 I did get properly dressed, but the cold was enough to make my fingers hurt through a pair of knitted gloves inside wool mittens (probably because of holding the leash) and Rex started limping within 500 meters, but that stopped pretty quick, once we were moving at a steady pace. I did notice him limping previously though, so we need to think protection for his paws, too. I pulled the long turtleneck kind of scarf out along my face, but still the cheekbones went numb fast. And, probably because I took up scale modelling and military history again, I wondered how soldiers can function under these conditions, let alone fight at even lower temperatures in layers of summer clothes... Hell is not a fiery hot place. It must be a frozen one like the Eastern Front more than 70 years ago.
But in between these 2 cold spells the temperature rose to around -10 to -15 and with that came more snow. Lots of it. About 40cm in less than 3 days. A very light, dry, powdery, feathery kind of snow. And with it wind. First from the east and later it turned to the north. That was not pleasant either.... but here comes the twisted me to the surface; I love this!!
I really do love it when it is cold, when it freezes and when it snows. Maybe not as much at -26 or in a freezing gale, but still....

It takes you back to the inner you, trying to stay warm if not on the outside, then at least on the inside. Huddling up, wearing warm clothes, breathing this stinging, fresh, clean air. Seeing amazingly brilliant and clear starry skies, looking at the astonishingly complex and beautifully shaped snowflakes, hearing the crunching and squeaking snow under your feet, but no other sounds.... It makes you really feel alive. Experiencing the world with all your heightened senses at once and it always leaves me in awe for the sheer cold beauty and instills deep respect for the world in which I live. Mother nature in one of her most dazzling guises, but mercilessly cold and ruthless to those not respecting her.
I took this one during the first cold period, when the moisture froze out of the air.
Perfectly shaped ice crystals, like stars.

We saw 2 strömstare or white throated dippers (Cinclus cinclus) this week. The first one was startled by Rex and we saw it shoot away, just over the water's surface of a stream that flows too fast to freeze... yet. The other one I saw when we crossed that same stream, but much more upstream, where it starts as a overflow from one of the nearby lakes. Never saw these before and now 2 in a row!

Now there's a little story to most of these photos. Most of the time it was too cold to take off the mittens and gloves to operate the cellphone. I do not leave home without it walks like this, because one wrong step, especially with a dog moving around like a loose canon on deck, might cause serious problems.... and there is so much beauty to see and share!!
All of the shown images are taken using a cellphone, either mine or my wife's. Last winter I "developped a technique" that enables me to snap shots without getting cold fingers.. I use my nose.

And thus this                                       

Is the result of this...

No I am not worshipping my cellphone..... 

                                                  Up close it looks like this:

This was today around noon; cold and moisture moving in. The air over the lake got hazy and the cold started to bite a little more.
I did notice that I have some softspots during this kind of weather; my cheekbones and the sinuses behind my nose. All the rest was warm and comfy, since I was trying out my outdoor gear once more in preparation for my trip to Norway soon. Now I need to find a way to protect those weak areas....
I paid more attention to Rex again, too. As long as he is moving, he doesn't seem to have issues with his paws, but if we stop for a short while, like when taking the first photo and others, he starts pulling up his paws and limps. I guess he has the same issue I have when I start out; cold fingers. But once the blood starts pumping when we move, the problem seems to disappear. When my fingers start to freeze, so do his paws, it seems. Good to know and a good reminder to check on him....
Maybe use some old socks on him or something?