Sunday, July 19, 2015

A feast of frugality

A Swedish summernight
In between rainy and cold days we occasionally have a spell of fair weather and last weekend was such a spell...

A thunderstorm building up.....

The purchase of the beaten up and ugly Volvo already paid off.
Last weekend I was able to loan a trailer, in exchange for changing the tires from winter to summer tires, and my son (yanked him from his pencils and paper and out of his bedroom) and I headed out to get some things. First on the list was a load of old double glass windows. The idea is to use those in order to build a semi greenhouse under our balcony. Due to the fact that some were damaged the original very low price got even lower. I already anticipated some damage in my calculations.
Then we moved on to the second goal, being an elderly lady, who wanted to get rid of some 200 old  roof tiles. We could have them and only needed to pick them off the roof of a small cabin. Turned out the cabin was a bit bigger than the small we expected and the 200 turned out to be nearly twice as much..... But the weather was good and the tiles were in good shape, having a nice old look to them, complete with mosses and lichens..... and 5 inhabited wasp nests. Luckily they were not that big yet, so no harm done.... to us... We needed to make a second trip in order to get everything home.
When we drove home after the first load, a road the lady advised us, we came across a buzzard. A full grown, mature buzzard, which sat low in a tree, right next to the road less than 10 meters away. As we approached it, it flew up, made a turn over the road, the sun hitting it from behind and setting his feathers a blaze with shades of copper and gold. He swooped to another tree and landed on the lowest branch. When we came closer still. he lept up and flew away into the trees... A magnificent, big bird!!! And so close.....
But the highlight of the day was my son. He is turning out to be a chip of the old block; hardworking and not complaining about it. He kept going without me needing to tell him to once, carrying and stacking the tiles to and into the trailer. I stood on the roof, handing down the tiles and watched him.... 14 years... and he was wearing my old army fatigues and they fit him quite well. Damn, they grow up so fast!! He seemed to be enjoying it, actually, although he would not willingly admit it.

So now there are 2 more piles of constructional material waiting to be used; enough windows to make a glass wall. so we can make that greenhouse... well, actually a closed up porch. It will serve several purposes: one, we can sow and pre-grow plants in it. Two, we have a place to take off snowy, muddy or wet clothes and boots, before we enter the house and mess it up. Three, the sun will hit the glass panes directly in winter, warming up the area behind it, which will create a buffer, so the cold will not enter the backdoor when we open it. It might even be enough to warm up the cellar hallway a bit. And as a bonus we can sit in the sun during winter without freezing our butts off to soak up some of those very necessary D-vitamins. Total cost; 400 sek.

The tiles will be more than enough to cover the roof of the chicken/rabbit coop and the porch, with many to spare. Those might come in handy at a later date. I might even create another shed like the woodworking shed. The broken ones will be used to fill the potholes in the road.

And speaking of help.....
I had the strangest creature helping me with weeding in the garden today; a cat.... sort off...

Plus I made a new friend too! A little robin that lives in our garden. It is around whenever I am working there and I see it flitting through the trees almost daily. It approaches me closely, regularly sitting there and watching me uncovering juicy worms and delicious grubs just out of arms reach. It comes so close that I took the next picture with my cellphone, but it turned its back on that one the moment I took the picture.

But the feast actually started about 2 weeks ago. I had been eyeballing one of those polytunnel greenhouses for a while and there was a company here in Sweden selling those. I figured such a polytunnel has many advantages; it is portable, so no buildingpermits required. And since it is portable we could first sow and pre grow plants and than move it, placing it over growing beds and grow peppers, tomatoes and the like in it. At the end of the season it would be taken down and stored. A greenhouse of 8x4 meters would set us back some 6500sek.... A hefty price.... On Ebay however my onlinebargainhuntingtalent (great scrabble word!) uncovered a source in the UK selling them much cheaper. Much, much cheaper..... Same system, same principle, yet a bit smaller being 6x3 meters. But I needed to bid on it.... and I did. In the end it saved us more than 4500sek incl. shipping!!!

And because we had built our greenhouse we received a gift in the form of plants from Esbjörn, the man who helped us a lot last year. We received a lot of plants, both decorative and useful. From my father in law we received a good number of beans and some cabbages and all of these goodies found a place in our garden.

In the meantime I was also able to get my hands on an old frame used to hang swings from. Someone wanted to get rid of it and I could have it if I came over and took it down myself. I figured it might make a great frame for our beans to climb onto. So I drove to the given address and found myself facing a homemade swing; almost 3 meters high, at least as deep and 4 meters wide... made out of old fashioned, decent quality scaffolding tubes! The owner's father had picked it up somewhere, she had been swinging from it, her kids had and now they had outgrown it... And virtually no rust!!! I guess my grandchildren might be able to use it too some day!
Now the beans are starting to grow into it. It is big enough to be placed over 2 beds simultaneously and when rotated we can simply walk though it and pick what we need.

But the cheapfeast was not quite complete yet. From work I was allowed to bring home stacks of plastic sowing boards and pots. Leftovers from our planting period. All I need to do is clean them and they are ready for use again. With any luck they will serve us quite a while, having plenty of spares. And it means less waste to begin with.

All this outbalances the large expanses we had previously and it again means that someone else's waste will be put to good use again.....

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A matter of perspective

The mind is numb. Skull is empty. It is hard to come up with cohesive thoughts.
So this post is mostly a mix of several incidents and brainfarts I had over the past few weeks.. And since there is little of significance to tell I'll make up for that with pictures...

It is high summer out there now. The weather turned quite dramatically and abruptly; 30 degrees C, windy and dry and within a matter of days we have been issued with the highest alert level for forest fires, despite the copious amounts of rain we had. The lakes are full and the soil still seems moist, but everything above ground is bone dry.
But before we received the alert we did the right thing during good weather spells...

And of course we go swimming in the lakes, but only once for me up to now. We also introduced Rex to motion in large open waters a.k.a. swimming. After getting used to water around his feet and up to his chest he had his first lesson and he jumped in head over heels. Just lept off the peer into the water.... And that scared the living bejesus out of him! We couldn't get him in afterwards anymore!

....And as I am writing here I got word that my youngest daughter just swam her first few meters in the lake without any kind of aid!! Yes!! Finally!!
one like this...
Of course she does that while I am not there.....

It is high summer... and I bought a snow shovel for the wintercarkit.
It is one of those Swedish army folding shovels with add-on snowblade. These are sturdy, will not brake when digging out ones car like plastic ones and above all this one was cheap as a set.
While unpacking it I noticed it was thickly covered in gungrease, which needed to be wiped off, leaving just a thin film. And while I was doing that the smell of the grease triggered memories... Memories of my own time in the military, but above all of the visits to the armor and military museums I went to over the years... Good memories....

the second bee I saw at work
My current job. I guess it beats the average job, being outside all the time, but it is a bit dull and unchallenging (and unproductive, senseless even) and I sometimes feel that I could use the time better. But we have been given an economic breather. A test of sorts. Will we keep on growing in the direction we are supposed to/want to or will we fall back into the trap of the modern easy way of living. It feels like we have reached the same point like we had before the move; working for someone else, get paid and then spend that to live. Or enlarge the library at home... :)
Don't like working full time. It costs way to much free time. And in a way it feels like I am wasting time. Time I should be spending elsewhere or in another way. But it does provide us with an income with which we can do things. If I have time, I have no cash and now that I have a little cash I find myself wanting more time.... And that is all quite frustrating. There's so much to be done, yet so little time to do it in. Besides my fulltime job (40 h/w) my wife works almost as much on average and for some reason my job leaves me pretty much dead in the water during evenings and weekends. When I get home it is very hard to keep going. It is after all my first fulltime job in 14 years and I am not used to it, but there is something else too... Maybe there is something to that rythm that leaves me, and maybe many others, with little energy after work. And I wonder why that is? Is it really the workdayroutine? Are we conditioned to work, watch tv and spending? Or is it much more basic and mondane; the lack of satisfaction from said job? Can't remember having this feeling when harvesting, but that period was a lot shorter.
Another thought occurred to me; maybe we don't really have homesteadingblood? Maybe that doesn't come naturally and has to be learned or inbred? All I know is that we lack the discipline, the drive or the will to fully commit to that... yet. Some are further in it than others and it sometimes feels like we are still more clinging to or are used to the previously mentioned modern workdayroutine than we care to admit.
Whatever the reason (lack of time, energy or will) I find the lack of progress highly frustrating and it looks like all of our livestock keeping plans will have to be put on hold for another year. I really hope to have all the infrastructure ready by next season, both for animals and plants!!

Besides that one whole paycheck merely evaporated.... We spent a lot of cash at the dentist. Among things, my big mouth is getting fixed. It has been 2 years, but I'd much rather spend my money on something else, honestly.
We also got Rex neutered, taking another big chunk out of said check, but as far as we can tell to good effect. He is easier to deal with, that much is true and I am sure that if we can get him socialised with other dogs, we'll end up with one very pleasant dog to deal with for everyone involved!
So we signed up for a training programme covering basic obedience and social training. That will be sometime during autumn, which probably will teach us as much as it will Rex. Plus we can work on our network and social skills as well. The we here will most likely be me...

Speaking of social (and old fashioned) skills.... The charcoalkiln has been built again! A good way to spend time in the woods, talk to folks and work on old fashioned skills too. I now got to witness the whole buildup progress from the beginning, making the picture complete. Now I just need to find a hole in my schedule to assist in talking turns watching it, when it smoulders. That will be during my last 2 working weeks at the churchyard, after which the transition to harvesting will occur... hopefully.


Either way there still is (very) little progress. I bought a polytunnel greenhouse which should arrive any day now and we finally were able to put up a drying stand. No need for a tumble dryer during fair weather and we were in for a bit of a surprise actually...

I also did see someone, who is keeping bees in order to learn some more about that.... and to just spend time being near bees and a hive.... because that is kind of addictive I noticed. Said gentleman is the proud owner of a so called top bar hive and that principle interested me greatly. Especially since I learned that people as far north as Canada or Lapland are using this type of hive! The main benefit? No lifting! Even a person less fit or in a wheelchair could keep bees this way! Be that as it may it turned out to be a most satisfying and educating afternoon. We were standing besides the open hive, working with the bees without protection. He even in slippers, shorts and a tshirt. Until the bees, for some reason, started to get agitated and we put on some protection. Just for safe measure. They seemed to be targeting him mostly. I also learned, much to my liking, that they kept chickens (the breed we want to keep), grew some of their own food and experimented with the same type of growing I want to get into; raised plantbeds. Plus they had the roof full of solarcells, so I learned a lot about the pros and cons of that as well!
Learning about these top bar hives also made me postpone the purchase of bees. I will go for this type of beekeeping and need to build some hives first. Besides that it gives me the time to get beepopulations in time, so they will have the proper time to grow and prepare for winter.

There is much weeding to be done and not just at work. While I was busy relieving the iris flowerbed from overgrowing grasses it occurred to me that we do have a shortage of compost. And that this grass would end up there in order to create more compost for the growing beds. So in effect I was not weeding, but harvesting compost(material). Sounds a lot better. And makes it less of a drag to do!

The warm weather also does make for good reading weather, sitting in the backyard in the shade of the tree crowns. As I sat there I felt a mosquito sting me and I rejected the urge to swat it. Instead I watched it, seeing it probe its sucking mouthpart into my lower leg, lifting it out partially again, only to thrust it in even deeper, all the way up to the head. I just watched it, seeing its abdomen swell and turn bright red with blood until it had its fill, removed the mouthpart, cleaned it and lumbered off.... A thought occurred to me; now it, like the other mosquitoes that fed on me before it, is going off to lay eggs and those eggs will hatch, the larvae will grow into new mosquitos, if they are not being eaten beforehand by fish and other predators, and those mosquitos will become food too for birds and the like.... A very small part of me, that single drop of blood, will become a part of the cycle of life. It might feed a local fish or fly off with one of the swallows, dashing through the air here right now.

You see.... It is all a matter of perspective...

Sunday, June 21, 2015


...and the idiots of summer seem to have returned, fleeing their cities, swarming across the countryside, bringing their noise, haste and total lack of consideration with them... But the days are shortening again and soon we'll be enjoying the calmness of autumn and the silence of winter again...

... but it snows in june...

Well, not actual snow. Not here at least, but the fluffy seeds of the aspentree.
One day when I came home, I saw that the vegetablebeds were white and when I left the car the whole garden was covered in a light fluff.

I made up my mind and applied on friday, the day of the midsummer celebrations, for the hunters course. I did that on a whim actually, suddenly having the feeling to just do it. Hopefully it will leave me with much more knowledge and understanding of the world of a hunter, if nothing else. And it will get me out of the house and among people for at least one night per week until christmas.
Strangely enough that same night I had a chance encounter with one of the villagers, a man who lives on the other side of one of the lakes and who we know by face and name, but not much more than that. We greet each other when we meet, but that was basically it.
I met him as I was going for the late night walk with Rex and he came "cycling" down our road, heading for our big city weekend neighbours, who were throwing a very audible midsummerparty. He already was considerably socially lubricated (posh description for drunk) and he stopped to check out Rex. He has 3 dogs himself and loves dogs, clearly. We talked dogs for a while and out of the blue he invited me to come over for some coffee one day and to join him on a huntingtrip. He is also a member of the other hunters association around here (the other one being the club for landowners, which I went along with last year) and I mentioned having applied for the course in september. He then said I'd be welcome whenever I wanted to join him or the association. We'll see how much of this he will remember when he is sober.....

The next day, when out with Rex again for the early morningwalk, I discovered a roedeer lying down in the field next to our house. It was lying there in plain sight, didn't move, but I could see it breath and an ear moved. Strangely enough it was not alarmed by our presence and I thought it was lying there in an awkward position. Then our neighbour came down the path with his dogs and I alerted him to the presence of the deer. He turned around, since our dogs do not go well together and I completed the morningwalk, still finding the deer in exactly the same position as before. Not long after we got home I heard a gunshot. Our neighbour had put the deer out of its misery.....

Looking at the image I noticed that the area in front of it had been trampled. Maybe the night lair of the group and this one got left behind. I did see one trail moving away from the place. The grass was bent away from it. This roedeer had a swollen belly. Maybe a birth gone wrong?

The geeselings seem to be thriving though.
As I understood from some beekeepers, getting my own bees this year might prove not that easy. The season has not been favorable for bees so far; rainy, windy and cool. That means little food and bad flying conditions. I guess many populations will have a hard time preparing for next winter, let alone expand in size. Looking at the buzzing buddies in our garden I see a decent number of smaller bumblebees, very few big bumblebees and some big ass wasps! Even the mosquitos and ticks seem to be having a hard time.

And speaking of idiots....
We had one (1!) day of good weather, being last sunday and what does this idiot do? Right.... working in the garden... NOT! I went shopping at IKEA.... I admit we did need a new mattress thanks to Rex and I admit that the weather forecast was nowhere near as accurate as it should be and I do admit that I did need a rest..... and the lunchbreak at IKEA did some productivity; a very rough sketch of our semi-greenhouse to be! And a similar sketch for a kitchen sofa with a lot of storage capacity. Plus a lot of ideas for the rest of the house. A lot of "upgrades" are needed, like insulating the hall floor in the cellar and in my mancave. Plus we will (hopefully) be sleeping on a decent bed and a good nights sleep is worth a lot too.
As you can read nothing much is going on. Having a very busy full time day job makes pretty sure that it doesn't. Everything had to be done before friday afternoon and that meant a lot of grass cutting, weeding and above all hedge trimming. And there are a lot of hedges! Pushed my lazy muscles so hard that by lunchtime I had a hard time holding on to my cup of coffee, let alone lifting the gas powered trimmer. I've been feeling that all weekend, hence the aforementioned rest.
In the meantime we had Rex neutered and as a proper family member who fits in..... that meant complications. The procedure went smoothly, except from him escaping his pen before surgery and happily bouncing around the vet's place. The aftermath was less smooth. Since he can not take it slow fluid started collecting in his scrotum and that one grew larger than a tennisbal. So 2 weeks of almost nailing him to the floor and antibiotics. We weren't even allowed to walk him for longer than it took for him to "do his thing".
Now he's fine again, but all that bundled up energy is being let loose now plus he has changed too. He has become aggressive towards other dogs now; snarling and barking, ready to charge and when we correct him, in the heat of the moment he does have the tendency to turn on us too! So we decided it was time to bring in some guidance and assistance from folks who know. We contacted the local branch of the Svensk Brukshundsklubben or the Swedish workingdogs association. They have dealt with dogs like this before and we really need to get him socialised with other dogs. People are no problem.
Slowly we are increasing the length of our walks with him again and everytime I walk along the lake, feeling the wind, hearing the water sloshing against the shore I so wish my canoe was useable! I'd want nothing more than to take it out for an evening of slowly paddling along the shores...

And if all this wasn't enough, there was a happening that made the emotional strain just a tad bigger.
Our oldest daughter's class had to say farewell to each other and their beloved teacher. She was really worked up about it and the days preceding the final day were very tense.
On the final day of the schoolyear all classes, the parents and relatives gather in the church. One by one the classes sing and the 6th graders are last. And as my girl stood there singing, her choirexperience clearly showing I was shocked by how much she looks like her mum and I finally realised we only have one little one left at the local school. She'll be attending 3rd grade next year.
I had to swallow hard a couple of times, let me tell you.

Shopping at one of the grocery stores together with the mrs. the other day did the rest. They had a stand there with reading glasses and jokingly I took one and put it on my nose, trying to look professor-ish. According to my wife I looked like a certain gnome from our youth: Paulus de boskabouter (Paul the woodgnome). I laughed at her and grabbed a nearby product to read the ingredients list.... and got a nasty surprise! The glasses followed me home.....

Ohh and in my acquisition-post I forgot to mention that we were able to fulfill one of my wife's wishes. We got ourselves a decent camera; a Sony X100 and I am learning how to use that one...

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Improvise, adapt, overcome...

As an afterburner to my last post, there are some things that have changed recently, dramatically and unexpectedly or that have been crossing my mind.
In the light of recent developments, like my wife having 2 jobs substituting for instance or the improbability of us acquiring land, I really need(ed) to think things over, adjust ideas and views and generally alter the way I see our immediate future here.
The plans and ideas I/we had for creating an ecological farm/business for now remain what they are; dreams. For in order to realise those and make it work, we have to be a cohesive team of 2 fully dedicated people (5 actually) and right now I am not so sure that we really are.
Another issue was the issue of land. A co-worker explained to me that that is a very sensitive issue around here. The chances of someone letting you use their land are very slim, the chances of renting it are even smaller and the chances of buying it.... You might as well try your luck in the lottery. Unless you are very close to the owner (or there is something they want from you). That might enhance your chances considerably. And we are not and have not. We still are, and probably always will be, outsiders. This piece of information perfectly explains all the encounters we've had when dealing with the subject plus a few we were witnesses to. Of course there are exceptions to the rule, but in general... Fat chance.
This all means that some serious rethinking was in order. What to do? What were our priorities? Even moving was being mentioned, but then what? What we will leave behind here, we'll probably find some place else too. Besides we wouldn't be able to afford moving some place else, even if that place did have a sense of community, which this little village lacks or it is so innercircle that we are not aware of it, but I highly doubt that. And besides we do not want to leave the area or run with the tail between our legs. We fought too damn hard for this place.
So for now we will focus on our little island, see what we can do with that. Which will probably mean that the mrs. will provide us with an income and I will be taking care of things at home; fixing, building, growing and taking care of humans and animals alike.
And I also realised that I was getting too hung up, too serious and too focussed on our way of living, on my vision of our future and on social issues in general. So much that I was forgetting to have fun. So I am taking some steps back, slow down and go with the flow more instead of trying to steer it. That doesn't mean I will stop what I am doing, but I will try and be less of a fanatical tight ass about it.
So what if building scale models means working with plastics and chemicals. I enjoyed what I did, thought I was quite good at it too. It also meant having a way to vent myself and my creative flow. Even if it still really bothers me that just building and finishing 1 model requires a shitload of raw materials, oil and chemicals, before I can put it on display in a glass cabinet. I will not save the world by not building one, but it might make a difference for me personally and for those around me if I can relax, focus on other things for a minute, before switching my mind on the real important issues again. There is that damn dilemma again....
I am also reconsidering huntingschool. Since there will be no larger animals around that might require killing, there will also be no need for the skill and permittance to handle a firearm. That would save a whole lot of cash; school, rifles, weapon safe, fees... On the other hand we can afford it right now and it might mean a way of legally putting real, good meat on the table, but I already noticed that the hunters community is a kind of its own. Not easy to fit into....
I think I will be focussing on growing vegetables, having bees, chickens and maybe a couple of rabbits and buy the rest locally with the cash the mrs. brings home.... That would also free up time for more time in the woods, foraging and expanding the knowledge required for that or generally frolicing about... showing off shinies and sharpies.. ;)
Y'know.. doing the woodsman-thing...

Monday, June 15, 2015

acquisitions and disappointments

First paycheck came in and I went on a shoppingspree!
Here I was, talking about peak oil and how it will become scarce and all and the first thing I bought was..... A car!
Ohh the irony! In order to break free more I needed to become part of the problem more. Why? Well, I need transportation. A workhorse to get the stuff we need. And that is what I got; a genuine Swedish workhorse. One of those spit ugly Volvo 745's in dark blue, well used, dented and scratched. But it has a trailer hitch, the power to pull a (horse manure or firewood) laden trailer, is reliable, was cheap to buy, not so cheap in fuel, but spareparts are easy to come by and cheap too. And it can double as a familycar for 5+ dog if needs be. + roofrack... The only requirement it doesn't fulfill is the 4x4 part. But one of those would cost a fortune, both in acquiring one and in driving/maintaining it. So all in all a very good compromise. It also means my wife has gained mobility, enabling her to work more too, so we'll have our money back very soon.

Well, actually it wasn't the first thing I bought. That of course were books...
Quite a number of books found their way here. Many older books from before the ''age of toxicity'' as I have come to call it, meaning predating WW2. Books on lifestock, on fertilisation and on basic farmers knowledge. Newer books on growing food and on the use of nature's foodsupply. Some books on sheep too, but even as it seems a bit of a waste, they might become of use anyway someday. They're just fun to read as it is. There's something about sheep that makes any bad mood vanish...
It has been mother's day too and as a bit of a joke I got my wife a 1937 Swedish handbook for countryside housewives and a household book/agenda from 1958. Turns out these are packed with householdtips and tricks, how to's and recipes! It even shows step by step how to use intestines for sausages. Both for less than 50sek.... total.

The disappointments lie in the news that I will not be working at the churchyard for 6 months, but 5. The gap probably will be overcome by the then upcoming potatoharvest, but it means no vacation to spend with the family this summer. I will have to take the off-days at the end of the season to start harvesting, so no extra pay either. It does mean another winter of free potatoes, though...

The other disappointment lies in the fact that any hope/chance to keep larger animals, like sheep, got hammered into the ground.
There is a lot of land not being used, directly bordering our premises. About 4000m2. Bit more actually. It belongs to one of our neighbours as does pretty much all the land directly surrounding us. The land we wanted to use, is of no use to anyone, except for the ticks hiding in the tall grass, but might make some decent grazing pasture for sheep. It is hilly, full of boulders, trees and at its lowest point marshy. So we went over to ask if we could use, rent or even buy it. His answer was a brusk ''No''. He does not want any animals in the near vicinity.
This means we are encapsulated on our own little island with no possibilities of enlargement or expanding. This means making do with what we have, finding solutions and possibilities. Quite a challenge! And I do like that, using my imagination, seeing what we can come up with. And it also means much less expenses or loans!
Some of the ideas we had were either buying a tunnel greenhouse in foil or constructing one with old windows. The first would be expensive, some 6500sek, but could be taken down when not in use,so no building permits needed.

A few more purchases are on the list with the next paycheck; accumulatortanks for the heatingsystem, a few more kubic meters of firewood, paying for the hunting school, bees and necessary equipment and hopefully a trailer to transport it all.
Besides that we have begun to stock our foodcellar with supplies. First we want to build up a certain stock of things we use often, like coffee, honey, various tomatoproducts, raisins, nuts and such. And then of course there are the orders of locally grown and slaughtered meat; pork (20-25kg), cow (up to 40kg) and lamb (10-15kg). These will be delivered at the end of summer, beginning of autumn and that will mean a lot of chopping, cutting, processing, freezing etc.

So far spring had been a disappointment too. Cold, grey, wet and windy with occasional outbursts of sunshine. But that gives us many, many rainbows. And we did see some spectacular ones!! Birds are having a tough time finding food for their young and I did not see many of those yet. But we have at least 4 species nesting in our garden and we can hear the young, screeching inside the nestboxes. The few warm and sunny days we did have, made plants grow with almost explosive force. You could almost hear the grass grow! And because of this growth the newly acquired plants are doing well; a handful of brambles and some ''äkta vallört'' (symphytum officinale). Plus I was able to add some splashes of colour by saving a good deal of plants from a sorry end on the compost heap. The same goes for 2 chestnut shoots, just because I like the trees. They're not edible.Various sorts of viola may live to see the end of summer here. The previously saved heath and daffodils are doing good too!
The seeds we have sown, spinach, carrot, beetroot, salad are showing some small progress too, but we already learned that loosened soil+seeds+cats= a bad mix. So next time we will need to cover our plantbeds with nets. I am looking into ways to construct a semi-permanent tunnelframe over those beds, so we can cover them with cloth, foil or netting when needed. Some organic potatoes (maestro) that were not looking to fresh anymore have been planted too and they are growing as well! Same goes for all the strawberries I saved. More than a dozen plants and they are all going strong and bloom.

As far as this blog is concerned, I noticed a sharp decline in hits, ever since I stopped talking about exciting woodsbimbles, shinies and sharpies, but the response has increased. With any luck I will be able to do something about the woodsbimbles later this year. I am planning a visit to my Norwegian buddy Odd in early autumn and a trip to Finland to meet the weekend woodsman in person in late autumn..... or early winter there.

"And in comes a newsflash.....
The mrs. has managed to find another job!!
It is another job as a substitute, but during the interview she already got the question if she would be willing to work 75%, starting in autumn if she feels at home in the job. Cool thing is that she got asked for this job! A friend of ours tipped his superior after that one complained about an acute lack of personnel and they rang my wife..... Our life keeps on twisting and turning in unpredictable ways.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Olja för blåbar - book review

Olja för blåbär - energi, makt och hållbarhet
Johan Landgren - Roberth Hansson
Hardcover, 303 pages
Text is Swedish.

This book deals with a fenomena that mysteriously goes all but unmentioned in todays media; peak oil.
Peak oil as defined by wikipedia; Peak oil, an event based on M. King Hubbert's theory, is the point in time when the maximum rate of extraction of petroleum is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline.
Two small words, but with an immense impact on us, our world and our way of living! It simply means we are running out of oil and since basically every single damn thing we do these days is based or dependent on oil you might see some trouble ahead. No? Well then see us like this. We are hardcore crack addicts and the drugs are about to run out. Permanently. 
It means that while demand for oil keeps on increasing, the supply can not keep up. It in fact decreases rapidly after the maximum productionlevels have been reached and now you might start to see where this is going wrong; demand and supply do not match. Demand with too little supply means rising prices. More demand and even less supply.....

The language used in this book is clear, simple, devoid of any high-sounding professional jargon, meaning even I, as a non native swedishspeaker, could easily understand what was being said. That would mean any averagely educated Swede of about 16 and older can too. Which I think is a very great bonus, since that vastly increases the number of potential readers. Especially in those hard to reach, but ever so vital agegroups. The younger ones, since it is they that will bear the brunt of what is coming toward us; an abruptly and significantly... no, totally changing world within the next decade.
That's right; DECADE!
Some of the analysis the authors give, show that many of the current oil- and other fossilfuel producing countries have already reached their peak or will very shortly, whilst on the other hand growing giants like China and India demand an ever increasing share of that fuel pie. Sources all across the internet confirm that scenario. But I am running ahead of things now....

The book;
It is of course divided into several chapters; 11 to be exact and each of these are subdivided in subchapters.
It starts with the very basics about energy, oil and items related to that and from that moves on to the subjects of economics and how this is all tied each other. The second chapter looks more specifically at Sweden in that context.
The third chapter goes deeper into the history of oil and how it got its power, how it influenced recent history and how it is shaping our world today. Chapter four deals with the myths and facts about an indefinite growing economy, based on finite sources and chapter five looks at the North Sea and the oilcountries around that, like Great Britain and Norway. Chapter six is about fracking and other seemingly brilliant fuelfinds, whereas chapter seven takes an indepth look on the socalled "strategical ellipse" (fossilfuel producing countries around the kaspic Sea, like Iran, Russia and the many countries of the Middle East) and the awakening Chinese dragon.
Chapter 8 switches back to Sweden again and looks at its preparedness for Peak Oil or any other calamity....which is not something to be cheerful about, really.
From chapter nine the book starts moving towards possible solutions, based on today's technology, for upcoming practical problems. How to keep logistics going for instance. Chapter ten keeps on moving in the direction of local and sustainable, a logical step in the light of troubled logistics and chapter eleven gives us an image of what the world might look like for the children of today. It might very well be a world my grandparents would recognise from their childhood.
It feels a bit utopian and leaves out the often ugly scenes that might come with collapsing civilisations. But maybe that was intentional to give the reader a feeling that not everything is deep doom and gloom, but that there is hope for our future.
This is a general feeling I had throughout the book anyway. A feeling of hope and possibilities, despite that which we are about to face.

All in all a very highly recommendable book if you are swedish or know the language. I went as far as to contact one of the authors and ordered a copy of him directly. I do feel that this book should be in our bookcase for when our kids are old enough to understand or if they are interested in why things possibly are as they are in our world. They have a blog to by the way:
Despite the fact that the book is more or less tailored to swedish readers and society I do think that the general consensus is global, since it affects as all and it might be a good thing if the authors would translate and maybe slightly rework the book to make it fit for the international market.

Another very high plus on my scale is the fact that the book has a very extensive list of sources, each indexed in the appropriate piece of the text, so you the reader, can cross reference anything they claim, should you desire. That makes the book all the more credible to me.

My verdict; If you are in anyway interested in what makes our world tick today and why it might stop ticking in the quite near future; get it!
If you know, see or feel that there is something fishy going on these days and want to make changes or become less dependent on the ever more erratic cycles of our economy; get it!
If you, with or without children of your own, want to know or get an idea of where we are heading and do something about it; get it!
If you are someone, who refuses to stick his head in the sand and run after the next fashionable shiny gadget; get it!
This book is not a bible or the answer to everything, but it sure will help to make you understand...
I'd say that this book, together with Gunnar Rundgren's Trägården Jorden, gives a pretty good idea of where we are now, where we are going if we do not act and how we might/should act to prevent the worst kind of misery.

If you're Swedish, simply get both and read them!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Where have we come from and where are we going to?

The first month at the new job has passed. It passed quite quickly.
Working at a churchyard does have a strange effect. Spending a lot of times on your knees on top of a grave or close to it, a tombstone right in front of your face. The eyes wondering, looking at the names, the dates..... Some of those resting here are young and I shiver at the thought of having to bury one of your children. Some of those resting here are old as are some of the graves and I can not help but wondering what their lives were like back in the days. How did they live? What did they think of? What did society look like?
And being so close to the dead makes me wonder about my own life, the things I do and the world I one day will leave behind... Perspectives shift, change. And yet this is not only a place of death and sorrow. Some of the trees are as old as some of the graves. Older probably. And they harbour a lot of life. Birdlife in particular. And I get to witness that life up close. I guess some of the birds have come here for generations. They almost seem tame. I see tits and fares building their nests in the nest boxes and coniferous trees. I see the younglings leave the nest and hop around, feathery fluff on their heads like they just came out of bed and next to tailless..... I see the parents battling off crows and magpies, which have nests of their own here.
There was one incident I thought was quite special. Whilst emptying the waterstorage boxes underneath the plant trays I found a cluster of ants floating in the water. They were clinging to each other and most were alive. The dead ones were at the bottom, having sacrificed their lives for the common good. Their bodies acting as a raft for the rest to climb on too.... I scooped them out of the water and as I put them in the grass the cluster immediately fell apart. The living ones scurrying off, leaving a layer of bodies behind.

And now I am sitting here, tired.... Body's not used to working anymore...
A full time job as a churchyard gardener is a lot of physical work. Trying to create a food garden and maintaining the rest is too. The more so, if you have to do that simultaneously.
Yet it is a good kind of tiredness. A tiredness that comes with having done some real work... good work.

And still there is another form of tiredness. A tiredness of the mind. I previously wrote that I feel so much more rooted and I still do. I also wrote that I do not think so much anymore, but that is not quite true.... What comes into mind, apart from what I mentioned, is equally tiring. Maybe even more so....
I wrote about my mum reappearing into my life after a long absence and that feels real good. I wrote about the picture that made me think of my dad and that did more than I initially thought. It hit home more. Both events did. Made memories resurface, good and bad ones. Anxieties too. It makes me focus on myself; painfully aware of things I do, say, think or feel. I am not him, but very much like him, despite working very hard not to be..... Have been doing so for as long as we have kids and that worked out pretty well I must say. But it is also wearing me down at times and when being tired you let your guard down more easily.....

I have also been reading a lot. About where we are as a society, as humans. Where we have come from and above all where we are going and bringing our own children into the picture the pressure intensifies. Intensifies, because of the realisation that they will inherit a world we have created. A false world, which is falling apart. Falling apart fast!! What will their future be like? What will ours be?

I read a good deal of blogs, articles, books and studies dealing with these issues and one thing becomes clearer by the day; the world as it is today will soon cease to exist. Very soon. No, not in an apocalyptic BOOM.... Although that option still is open... No, in a much more mundane and fundamental way. There is this ever present feeling that we are running out of time..... because we are running out of resources. We on a global scale that is.
I am reading and thinking a lot about these small words and their implications; peak oil. Small words, but with an impact beyond imagination. What they mean? Simple. We are running out of oil... So? Any idea how much we are dependent on that as a society? As a civilization? A good bet.... very close to 100%.... Each and every aspect of our lives is dominated by it. And there are many clear indications that we have used up, squandered the vast majority of it. Production has reached its peak or very soon will and after that resources dwindle fast.... very fast. Currently with little, feasible alternatives. Of course this is all denounced by the mainstream media and politicians, proclaiming we should continue business as usual and everything is fine. Except that it's not.
I will come back on this issue shortly, when I do a review on a book dealing with that, but if you want to know more, just google those 2 little words. And do your homework. Or go to the The archdruid report, for instance. Then you will understand why it is on my mind and why it creates a very strong urge to hurry up and do/complete what we are doing here. Being aware of the issue, reading and learning about it, makes one see the signs ever more clearly. Not just the signs that are very present in everyone's face, also the ones more hidden beneath the surface and are visible to those knowing, but the most disturbing ones are the signs that lurk at the horizon. Signs that paint a not so pretty picture. Global depression like we have never seen before. Shortages, Rising prices. Unemployment. Civil unrest. Famine. War... Because that is what comes with a failing, crumbling civilization. That is not doomsday thinking. That simply is a reality.
Yet out of the ashes a new civilization will arise and I really want us, or at least our (grand)children, to be a part of that. A contributing, constructive part... So I still hope for and work toward a world that is worth living for and in. There are so many things we can do. So many alternatives and choices.
And that restlessness, that urge is also tiring. Mentally. I did not sleep so well these past few days and this may just be the reason why. But it is an issue worth losing sleep over. My future, my family's future and the future of all of us. Many of whom will not make it and maybe we will neither. But I do know that learning and preparing now will enhance the chances of my family making it significantly.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Swallows and soil

Spring is here, yet it is a cold one, a wet one, a grey and windy one.... even if ticks seem to become pretty bad this year...
I saw my first swallows of this season the other day. Swallows in the air, soil beneath my feet. Because that is what feel like the main thing these days; soil.
For the first time in a long time I am no longer living in my head, thinking, worrying...
For the first time I am very much down to earth, in the earth, feeling grounded, rooted...

I look a lot like my dad in this photo and I couldn't help but wondering how he is or where he is...
Haven't seen him or spoken to him in almost a decade.....
We didn't get along very well

Slowly but surely our garden is starting to take shape. We had a long weekend last weekend due to a celebration within the christian church. That church is quite present in our lives these days, even if we are not actively involved. The girls have their after school activities linked to it, my wife sings in the churchchoir. It has become my employer for (hopefully) the next six months and many social activities and festivities start there or are linked to it.
But then I come home and spend much of my sparetime on my knees, hands in the dirt, digging, cleaning, reclaiming.... spade by spade.... I had to remove 2 young aspen trees and all of their roots... These were everywhere!!
Not bad for 3 days of work, including relocating some berrybushes, lending a helping hand sawing twigs for stickpuppets and other work, but then again I did have help..... The soil seems rich, is nice and dark. Not sandy, but no heavy clay either. Firm, with loads of life in it. We spend a good deal of time looking at what we found; worms and ants and all sorts of grubs and larvae.... We need to get a book on those remarkable little creatures, so we know what we're dealing with.

I did try our gasoline driven tiller. You can see the result to the left; a tangled mess of soil, grass, weeds and roots. I had to give it a go, but ended up with some severely aching shoulders. Should've know that controlling that machine as it bounced and ground its way through the garden would exert exactly the wrong kind of excess stress in the wrong places. Guess I'll be digging up the rest of the beds, all 9 of them, by hand as well.
It'll leave me stiff and sore, but at least I can use my arms in the days after that...

Of course there still are struggles. There always are....
One of them is with Rex these days. He is maturing and he's getting more and more dominant, trying to rearrange the social order within the family... or at least the animals therein. His behaviour sometimes borders on aggressive and he really needs to be handled firmly quite regularly. Having other unneutered males around makes him act even more territorial and females in heat in the vicinity make it all the more challenging to coexist smoothly.... Despite the fact that he really has become much more socially acceptable with other people.
One of the things to spend some of my first paychecks will be spent at the vets. He will be relieved of some weight between his hind legs soon!  By then he will have matured and it will not affect his physical development all that much anymore.
And he's bored..... He needs to use his overabundant energy in another way than chasing cats around the house, clawing at me or biting me in the hand while playing or charging at or chasing after other dogs, rabbits, squirrels or any other fast moving object, including leaves. And I think I have just the thing...
I found this great little book on sleddogs, their ways and how to use and train them. A new world is opening up with loads of potential. I think we will find ways to constructively incorporate our 4-legged boy into our family and beginning homestead. And it'll be a great way to spend time with him and the family in the slow period of the year; winter.

We're also making more plans for the future. I called in a family meeting last friday to discus the possibility of having a small flock of sheep. Why? Well, it would mean a serious redesign of the chickencoop, since I figured it might be an idea to shelter both chickens and sheep under the same roof, even if being separated by a wall. or fence. They could keep each other warm and company during the winter months.
As for grazing, there are a good deal of unused patches of meadows and grass around which would be useable when surrounded by some electrical wire. The meeting was called in to ask the kids if they were willing to chime in, since my wife and I can not do it all alone. The girls were all in favour, of course, but our son was sceptical. It would be a good way to teach all of us all about taking care of animals and for the kids about chores and responsibilities, but above all about life with other creatures.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Fast forward

It seems like my life is in fast forward mode these days. Many things are happening all at once.
The new woodstorage is done and filled. The pile of wood and wooden pallets from the garden are processed and cleaned up. It looks like a garden again instead of a junkyard.
The day before starting my new job I managed to reclaim a piece of the garden for growing plants, both beautiful and edible. It isn't much, a little over 2x2 meters, but it is the start. I replanted the base around the aspen tree with wild geraniums. One of my favorite species of plants. The location of the 4 josta berrybushes (a crossover between blackberries and gooseberries) determined the shape of the flowerbed and I started to fill up the empty space by replanting a rhubarb and a paeonia there, along with a few handfulls of daffodils. Thinking about edible perennials for the rest of the flowerbed... I think I will go for strawberries as a groundcover.....
After giving it some thought I decided to keep the aspen tree. I really like it. It is a beautiful species. And I like the sound the leaves make when there is wind. It sounds like running water. Plus they turn a gorgeous golden yellow in autumn.
All flowerbeds are to receive such a framing to keep the compost and fertilizer around the plants and the woodchips on the paths.

I laid on a layer of gathered gardendebris, like twigs, dry leaves and patches of moss. Occasionally I toss on a small patch of grass that I weeded out nearby, making sure some soil is still clinging onto the roots. Makes the whole thing look older, tones down the roof and hopefully will become a rooftop garden someday.

Here's the patch that will be vegetable garden, some 20x20 meters. Little smaller actually.
The slope in front of the house is full with comfrey, which spreads like wildfire, but is quite good as compostmaterial. And bees love it! To the right the newly constructed compostcontainer, the choppingblock and a cherrytree..
Started my new job the day the full moon of may reached it's peak; may 4th. The anticipation of starting a new job, my first real, more than 1 month. 8 hour a day job since we moved here and the full moon did not make it easy to get a good nights sleep.
Now I get paid pretty well for what I like doing best; gardening. Despite the weather dampening the joy, (it felt like a cold , wet, gray and windy late october day instead of may), it felt real good to be doing what I was and where I was doing it. But in a few weeks time my workplace will look like this again;

I can get used to that, knowing many are off far worse...
And nature all around us is one explosion of green waiting to happen. A few days of warmer, sunnier weather and it will be a challenge keeping up with it all.....
I enjoy the company of a small group of colleagues, which feeds my need for social contact without overburdening my systems and the occasional meeting with visitors. I get to use my language, so it becomes more fluent and better. What I really like is that one of them feels and thinks about today's society in pretty much the same way I do! I am no longer the lone conspiracy theory idiot around here!! It is great to be able to talk to someone about what we feel is wrong with the world today, about downshifting our way of living, growing food and keeping animals etc....

And through a strange coincidence I got another backpack in my possession. Yet again old Haglöfs, but in new shape! No stains, wear or tear and not even the paint was chipped anywhere. And it came complete with original top straps. This one however has one very neat feat.; an in-build seat! No, it is not one of those backpacks, where you have a (double) frame on the outside, that folds open. No this one has a neat little frame inside the pack, under the top lid! And a shaped foot of the frame so that it is quite stable. The main compartment seems bigger than the other one's I have and it has 2 side pockets.
I'd like to tell you the story as to how I got it.
I am a member of a group on facebook (yes, I know) that gives away things for free. The Swedish site has many of such groups actually. Second hand stuff for free or real cheap. Anyway, one of the members of said group was looking for a backpack for her younger brother, who wanted to start hiking. Always a good thing to stimulate younger folks into that area and I had a cheap knock off replica of a German army backpack (like the one I have) in touristcamouflage, meaning no real camouflage. I offered that one to her/him.
At the same time another woman offered her another backpack, said Haglöfs. I saw the pictures and told her I really liked that one..... In the end lady 1 wanted my backpack and lady 2 said I could have the Haglöfs for free. I told both we needed to go into town to do grocery shopping, so I could deliver and collect the backpacks. I was chuffed like a kid on christmas morning when I examined my new one!!

It folds up, when you open the backpack....

Folds down over the main compartment and the cloth is kept tight by the weight pressing down the front tube....
and the specially bent frame provides stable footing.