Friday, April 24, 2015

Some days just do not work out alright.

Today I would have really liked it to be a nice, relaxed day of celebration.
My wife is trying out a stand-in job in taking care of a handicapped person and she had had her first 12-hour nightshift in years last night. While she was asleep I got a phonecall telling me I have a fulltime summerjob; 40 hours a week, may to september. In order to enjoy this good news and to let my wife sleep in peace, I took Rex for a long walk in the woods. Some woodstime.... It has been way too long....
Unfortunately this did not work out quite as well as I had hoped. Rex was in a mood...... that did not contribute to a smooth cooperation and interaction between man and dog. He has been like this for a while now, but since a week..... charging at the cats, actively hindering them from seeking our companionship, disobedient, restless, chewing on things and hard to hold back. Playing with him almost instantly becomes violent and when he spots another animal..... He is walked 4 times a day with 1 time being more than an hour, but it is never enough.

Today was little different. In some respects he was worse. More and more Rex is showing a combination of 2 characteristics that I do not like to see in a dog simultaneously; very energetic and with a strong mind of his own. I like a lively and playful dog and I do not mind a dog having a mind of his own, but when his master calls he has to stop what he's doing and obey. Preferably at the first command. maybe at the second, but shouting for 4-5 times at a dog before he even responds and then decides if he is going to obey.... Not good. A dog walking his master; not good. When he gets told to not do or stop doing something, you see him glare at you...... and then quickly do it anyway. And you know he knows he's not supposed to do it. Lately I am seriously wondering if he is the right dog for this family. For me. Yet mostly he really wants to be friends, to be good. It just doesn't always work out that way.
The view for much of the walk
It might all be, because of his fase in life; a teenage dog. So for now I will shorten the leash so to speak and be more strict with him and see where this is going. But I do not like the fact that I have to be so firm, almost oppressive in order to get him to do even the simplest of tasks, simply because he just doesn't want to. One of those tasks is to go easy... He just will not go slow, especially on the long leash, no matter how often you slow him down or correct him. He merely turns his head.... and is off again, dragging you along. I have to keep my eyes fixed on the ground, just to see where I put down my feet, so I miss all the details, like a large buzzard sitting on a perch in plain sight, no 15 meters away from me. I noticed him when he took off as Rex came storming along the path. It doesn't really make it any easier to see wildlife, when you constantly have to bark commands at your dog either.
And that was when following the paths. In between the trees he not just pulled, but did that in all directions, nearly slamming me into trees or making me fight for balance on the rocky surface. He acted like a frickin' ADHD dog on a sugar- and caffeine rush!
The walk in the woods was anything but a leisurely, relaxing stroll and, despite a saying that you can not remain angry for long in the woods, but 2,5 hours later I came out pretty irritated (steaming is a better word) and we went home. I kept Rex short this time and he knew he blew it.
Yet, on the few occasions he managed to stand still, when I told him too and I could take some pictures or look briefly at an object of my interest.

Youngsters cheating in order to be bigger sooner.
A hefty burl with an odd shape

No words.....

The buckled area where root becomes tree
A cave of green

The grandeur of the forest as I like to see it!
Feast your eyes on it, as it will be gone soon.
They have begun to cut down the area...

Shortly after we came home I heard a familiar noise coming up the road; a pair of bitching and bickering girls coming home from school.... Great.
I had hoped to bring the good news as a surprise to the family over a nice dinner, but a) the surprise got ruined and b) a major ingredient for the dinner I wanted to make had run out, so I had to improvise and cook up something completely different. Still good, but now what I had in mind...

The dog is snoring in the couch now, the wife off to work again. The kids are off to bed and I am left here rethinking the day...... I think I'll have a beer.....

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Blisters, splinters and dirty fingernails

The body aches, the hands are sore, the fingers damaged and painful.... but it feels so good, because that means work is being done again! No more sitting around idle, but actually being busy fysically. Body tired, mind revived, soul satisfied....
Spring is here and it makes it hard to sit still, creates restlessness, urges mind and body to become active, productive, doing... Labour strengthens the flabby muscles, blood pumping through the veins, washes away the numbness of a hibernative state of mind.....

Lately I busied myself constructing an extra wood storage from the wood I got. The uneven ground proved to quite a bit of a challenge, because the whole contraption is standing on its own. No attachments to the housewall in order to avoid moisture transfers into the walls, which then might freeze up and fastening it into the ground was a no go too, because that would require a huge drill or dynamite. Nothing but rocks and stones..... But after a few days of measuring, sawing and constructing we had quite a nice extra storage right next to the house. It holds about 4,5m3 and all I have to do, is to open the basement window next to it and toss the wood into the receiving container and from there right into the heater. Saves a lot of carrying in winter over slippery surfaces. In fact the total amount of firewood in the container in the basement, the new storage and the storage next to the backdoor should at least see us through 4 very cold months. Again this whole thing did cost me nothing more than screws and nails I got from a local thrift shop; all in all 75 SEK. The roofing felt (those tar rolls) I found under the stairs to the frontdoor. They had been lying there for years, covered in leaves. Too bad it was not enough of one colour, but that doesn't matter. It was just enough as it was. We have different plans for that surface anyway. We want it to blend in, so it'll get covered with moss and grass and hopefully flowers will establish themselves there some day too.

Of course I didn't do it all by myself....
I had help!!
Last tuesday was a planting day.
The day before we went and got the fruit trees I ordered; 2 cherry and 2 plumb trees. They turned out to be quite a bit taller than I had expected! I thought they'd be about 1,5 m high, but the cherries were at least a meter higher and the plums reached a good 2 meters too. That's a good start!
From my father in law I got 6 more blackberry bushes, another josta and 3 red gooseberry bushes. So all in all a good deal of digging had to be done. A good way to give the high quality spade I got for my birthday a run for its money. Got to take care though. I am notorious for breaking shovel handles...
Digging out the bushes was no issue at all, but digging the planting holes at our place...... was quite a different matter all together! Stones, rocks and firmly compacted clay undersoil made digging 4 plantholes an all-afternoon enterprise. Crowbar and spade work..... yet clawing around in the soil literally made me re-earth... if you know what I mean.
The otherwise pretty useless, as in foodproduction wise, piece of garden is being enriched by all those berrybushes and with any luck I will be inoculating half a dozen existing rowan saplings with another, local species of plumb and apple.

Our little patch of earth is getting pretty crowded with birds these days. A fieldfare has chosen our garden as his territory, many of the usual suspects have teamed up with a mate and we even still have a couple of bullfinches. They usually disappear when spring arrives. And spring most certainly is here with sunny days and high temperatures. And as if to officially confirm that a pair of wagtails made their appearance with a little aerial display.
During a break we were sitting on the balcony and enjoyed a cup of the last bit of Dutch coffee. We saw the sun shimmer on the surface of the lake, whilst listening to the calls of loons, gulls, woodpeckers and countless other birds. We listen to the buzzing of bumblebees and witness a gull chase a hawk through the sky....
On days like these, life is good...

Monday, April 13, 2015

Building a Warré beehive

My hives are ready and are put in place! I hope to be able to attract some appropriate tenants for permanent occupation soon.

I mentioned my sources for the build previously, but for good measure; Warré buildingplans

The process in itself is very straight forward as I almost literally followed the plans. I only had to adjust the measurements to the size of the wood I used. Some planks were not quite 21cm wide, but close and the thickness is not 2cm, but 2,5cm. That means extra insulation in winter and extra bulk, when the hive is empty. The lifting handles were cut with a slope on top, so water can run off.
I constructed 6 boxed and carved a slit 1x1cm along the top of the short walls. Here's where the topbars will rest. I then put the topbars in place, using a 12mm thick piece of wood as a template. I then drilled a small hole through the bars into the underlying box walls. The holes in the bars were used as a guide to saw slits into the ends. Into the holes in the walls I inserted toothpicks, so each bar fits. This makes easy replacing bars at the right spot later on.

The quilts were even easier to make. A 10cm high squareframe, burlap at the bottom and a fitting board on top. The burlap was an old shoppingbag. At some point last winter a mouse got into it and died there. During the decomposition process it bodily fluids had stained the plastic liner and seams and we deemed the bag unfit for further use.
The day before making the quilt I treated the burlap as per instructions in Warré's "Beekeeping for all", meaning covering the burlap in a flour paste. This paste consists of 1 liter of water and 3,5dl of wheatflower (in my case). Warré himself suggests 5 soupspoons of preferably rye flour. To make this paste you slowly cook the water, slowly adding the flour, while continually stirring.
When I pasted on the goo it looked a mess as it thickens even more as it cools and I took off the excess paste after letting it soak for a while. No idea if I should do that or not. While the burlap is still wet, fasten it to the quiltframe! When it dries it will put itself taught. Then just cut off the excess burlap and you have a box for your insulation.

The insulation itself is sawdust (not the powdery version). That stuff  is also used for insulation on addicts around these parts and we have loads of it. The topboard was once a tabletop from an old diningtable.
The top was a bit trickier. I made a calculation error and had to redo one of them. But still it is quite straight forward and there even is a simpler version, which has only 1 slope. Of course I went for the harder one. Just looks better I think.
Next step was the bottom. Here too I used the old tabletop, sawing 2 squares of 35x35cm; the outer measurements of the hives. I then tried to fashion an opening for the hive entrance with a small slope. That did not go as I had hoped, but I hope the bees will forgive me. Do not forget the landingplatform in front of the entrance.
Now the legs.... Here I did do something I normally would not do. I used pressure impregnated wood. Simply because I still had that as a leftover from a job I did last year. I used 4 3x3cm normal wood legs (inner legs), but covered them with the impregnated wood (outer legs), so that the top of that runs over the edge, while the legs sit under the hive bottom. I cut the top of them outer legs in an angle so rain and meltwater can run off.

I did NOT need to buy;
2 broodchambers of whatever size or material
2 bottoms
2 tops or inner covers
4-6 supers
2 queen excluders
frames, usually 10 per box
waxsheets for each frame

The whole thing cost me one box of nails from the thriftshop..... plus the hours of labour. And if I can build them, really anybody can!!!

It truly is a people's hive; plain, simple and cheap. I hope effective too!

For now I have 2 hives with 2 boxes each. Only used 3 for the pictures. The remaining 2 boxes will serve as a makeshift swarm catcher, so I have 3 locations covered, enhancing my chances of attracting a swarm. I treated the bottom of the bars with wax as suggested/instructed by David Heaf.
See my previous post for links and extensive information on the subject.

Now go ahead! Make some! It really is as easy as it looks.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Of birds and bees.....

and other animals... ;)

More and more birds are returning; terns and gulls appear in numbers and buzzards circle the skies.
Last week we got an unexpected visitor; a young buzzard. Swept in low over the house and trees and landed right in the aspen in front of our livingroom window! Of course I grabbed a camera, but as I went outside, it turned around, lowered its head and gazed at me, before taking off. It made a few slow circles and then disappeared all together..  And on friday afternoon I heard loons calling on the main lake. They're back again!! I don't know what it is, but I love that sound of their eery, mournful calls. Untamed nature, perhaps?
As far as the bees go.... The bumblebees were out buzzing away last friday too and I saw one or two smaller, solitary bees as well. I think one of the bumblebee queens has chosen the wood supply next to the backdoor as a place for a nest. I guess I will not be taking that wood indoors just yet.

The beehives are nearing completion. It took some measuring and sawing, both of which I am not that good at. Difficulties with numbers and shoulders... Good thing I was able to loan my father in law's sawing table. I followed Warré's instructions pretty literally, but had to alter some of the measurements, due to differing board thickness. The ones I used are 25 to 26mm thick instead of 20. That makes the boxes a good deal heavier, but also provides more insulation in winter. I not only used the wood I got for free, but also nails from a local thriftshop and jute from an old shoppingbag.
The days before the weekend my wife and I spent quite some time measuring and sawing and I spent most of the saturday nailing, measuring, remeasuring, sawing and building again. We made a mistake with the tops. They were 1cm too narrow.... After I had built one hive roughly (no interior or insulation yet), I put it in its place, just to see the result. I was quite pleased...
I will do a separate post on the building process and show everything in more detail.
On sunday the stability of the still empty hive was being tested. We had a day and night of rain and stormy weather, but the hive still stands firmly.
And because sunday was mostly about wind and skywaters, we revisited a friend of my wife, who has a farm of her own called Utah Farm and who quite recently has gotten "in the business". She breads with sheep and chickens, has a few pigs and sells meat, eggs, lambskin and in starting a small shop with related, natural items on her farm as well and on sunday she had "open house". I got another chance to ask a handful of questions and to take a look around. Learned a thing or two... We had been there earlier this week to deliver some of my wife's woolen angels and we talked a good deal of course. Turned out they have roughly the same ideas and visions we have... Always good to meet likeminded folk!
Our girls enjoyed petting ducklings and some lambs and especially our oldest daughter adored the black chicks. I loved the black and white coloured lambs, a crossbreed they have and they even have blotched pigs with fur! Forgot the breed, though...

And of course we came home with a handful of eggs....

...which tasted real good, together with the knäckebröd my wife baked herself in the woodfed ovens of Skedvi Bröd, one of the very few bakeries in Sweden, where they still use open woodfires to bake the hard bread. A handcraft and a local item of pride.... Take a look at the link. You'll find some clips on how they do that.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The beginnings of beekeeping

A picture of last year's course
At least for me.
Now bear with me... I am no expert. Not even near. I am an absolut beginner. Just had my introduction to beekeeping last year through a course in ecological beekeeping. Plus a lot of reading...
Ever since the course I got the buzz. Standing next to an active hive is thrilling, exciting. Especially if you forget to close the front zipper of your beesuit.... Working with the bees had a strange yet powerful and positive effect on me. It literally made my day! Plus I want to do whatever I can to keep the bees from further decline... Since we need them. Need them desperately! We need them as pollinators and the honey and possibly some wax are very beneficial byproducts... to me.

Of course I did start out talking to a former and a present beekeeper and did a course. I used my library card well and I did read a handful of books on conventional beekeeping like the very elaborate book by Åke Hansson; Bin och biodling. I loved that large bee-overlay, where you can see the inside of a bee, layer by layer. Excellent book! And I will still get one if and when I can afford it.
But still there was this nagging sense of something being wrong..... Forcing the bee in every way to adapt to the beekeeper.

the original image is found here
Quite appropriate I think...
Now the caretaking-part;
One thing that struck me as strange, later turning into wrong, was the "harvest" of the hives. Taking the excess as a reward to the keeper, fine. Taking it all.... not. I feel that that is pretty much the basis for the trouble in the beekeepingworld.
Taking away their food and substituting it for sugar water to me is the same as what the foodindustry is doing to us these days. They have taken away our real, healthy food and given us back tons of junk and crap. Result; we get sick. Following this line of thinking leads me to the conclusion that bees get sick too and are therefore less capable of fighting back infestations and disease.
Why many modern and traditional beekeepers keep yelling that their way is the only way? Well, why do myriads of people still go to Mc Death? Why do hordes of people still stuff themselves with all that killing crap? Because they can not or will not look beyond. Because they can not or will not make a change. Because that requires rethinking, leaving trodden paths, leaving the old, known and familiar, even if it is wrong, behind.
Plus for beekeepers today there is another, probably major,  keyfactor; profit!! One kilogram of honey is much more worth than 1 kilogram of sugar. So they take the bees natural, healthy food and substitute it for cheap junkfood, claiming that that has worked for many years or even decades. Sure, the bees survived.... sort of. But why is it then that we are seeing so much beekeepers and bee societies in trouble? Why so much dying bees? It's like a mass extinction! I do not believe that it merely is the use of pesticides, although that is a major contributing factor, Nor is it the mass infestation with varroa. I do believe that the latter and other diseases can get a foothold and create havoc, because the bees themselves are seriously weakened, just like the human species is weakened by bad food over the years. And, just as with humans, pumping the bees and their hives full of antibiotics and chemicals only make a bad situation even worse. Keeping otherwise doomed populations by feeding them even further decreases a populations strength by eliminating natural selection.
Speaking of natural selection; tempering with a bee's genes is not a viable option either. Destroying the genepool by creating bees that do not swarm, that do not mate freely, that yield a for humans productive species, while at the same time eradicating characteristics that make bees hardy and able to survive.... No more natural selection of the strongest... And if that's not enough alien species are being introduced or even lab created!
And still scientists the world over have no idea what causes that massive demise in bee populations...

So I believe we should go back. Treat the bees right and giving them the right conditions to breed, work and thrive. That means no longer plundering their food supplies. That means taking away the factor of financial profit!!Take a little, but ensure the bees can survive on their natural food during winter. If that should mean you worked a summer for next to nothing; tough luck!
Stop using "medicine" to cure them. If you have to pull every trick from the hat just to keep the colony, it probably isn't very strong and pretty much doomed anyway. Back to step one; create healthy, strong bees. Stop supporting weak ones.
Another factor is the choice of hive. I choose to use a hive that mimics natural conditions as much as possible. Not a hive that is easy to work with and pillage. Besides, those latter hives use sheets of wax to steer the buildinginstinct of the bees, even further suppressing their natural instincts.... and contaminated wax seems to be yet another issue in the vast array of traditional beekeeping methods.
So hives without prefabricated waxsheets or frames.
A third factor is one that already made me butt heads with my course teaching beekeeper; the choice of species. I want a species that is native, that is adapted to local climate and that is on the verge of disappearing altogether; Apis mellifera mellifera. I don't care if other bee species are more productive and I certainly don't care that crossbreeding with other species might give aggressive bees! Because that is the argument I was presented with. Crossbreeding of the native species with non-native or even artificially created breeds would do just that, much to the discomfort of other beekeepers. Well, maybe other beekeepers should ask themselves whether their species is the right one..... Besides I am far enough away from any know bee colony to prevent cross breeding. And after all there still are wild swarms around here, so they might create the same problem. If that even is the real concern....
This whole philosophy is a perfect example of every aspect of current society; "progress" for the sake of progress. Profit is everything. Maximising profit by any and all means. Man controls it all and nature has to submit. Millions of years of evolution are swept aside with one move in favor of man's arrogance or should I say God complex?
And I already know that I will be at a ramming course with others over this..... *sigh*

All this I found in a beekeeping method as advocated by abbott Warré.
Here are some links which might help me make my decision, based on, to me, sound and logical grounds;
Nordbi - They work hard to maintain and even expand the presence of the indigenous species in Sweden.
the practical beekeeper -  who makes a pretty strong case for the arguments I just stated
the barefoot beekeeper -  same as above
warré beekeeping - this site provides all the information in downloadable bookform for FREE. including building plans both in metric and imperial measures. Anyone willingly sharing information or books without financial benefit automatically steps up the ladder of trust, because there is no financial gain for them involved. They do not need to sell their idea for profit. They share their ideas because of passion or belief. Cross referencing of such sources is still advisable though as it is with any.

As I was pondering over the ideas, plans and uses I came across a thought that might spoil the whole thing. I do have this annoying physical issue that messes with me everytime certain moves are made, causing strain in certain areas. Lifting is one of those moves, especially if it is a bit on the heavy side with repetitive movements over prolonged periods of time. And the Warré hive, despite its very appealing nature to me, still has multiple, heavy, honey filled boxes that need lifting....
The barefoot beekeeper seemed to have an answer; the top bar hive. It's like a warré hive, but on its side... sort of.
The barefoot beekeeper's site also offers free information and building plans and specifically stated that no heavy lifting was required, whilst providing all the key specifications I want. No lifting of boxes, only combs. The plans and ideas he provides are adapted for northern climates, since it is of African origin. Problem is that I can not find any references that might indicate that this sort of hive would be suitable for our climate. I do have my doubts...
I guess I still have quite some reading and studying to do.... The beekeepers I talked to said beekeeping was a science on its own, but having read I can not help but feel that they missed a point. A vital point! See what the bees do themselves naturally!!

So I chose to be a bee caretaker, not a honeyproducer....

Well, time to start to put all that wonderful theory into practice! Let's see if all this "know-it-all"-ness will make me land flat on my face... Or not.
The materials are largely in place, the plans are ready and the tools are being prepared!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

The big clean-up....

Lately large groups of swans and lapwings have been gathering on fields and meadows in the area. Maybe they are waiting for spring to advance northward so they can continue their journey. Last tuesday we heard and saw large numbers of cranes gathering and flying northward in small groups and in pairs. Somewhere on the southside of one of the lakes they had gathered in larger numbers and we could hear that!
The ant colonies too are stirring. Whenever there is a sunny period they gather at the sunny side of their anthill, but their movements are still kind of sluggish and slow.

Spring is here and with every spring there should be a spring clean up, right?
Time to clean up and put away those packboots, thick coveralls, wool mittens, pants and jackets. But I'll keep a wool sweater and blanket close... Just in case. Either cold or withdrawal... ;)
Airing out the house, opening windows and doors, sweaping dog- and cathair, sand and more muddy pawprints,
The other (cold) day I fired up the heatingsystem with 6(!) years of redundant administration; old insurance policies, salary- and taxrecords, warrantypapers..... the whole shebang. Normally I would throw it all into the old paperbin, but this is information I'd rather not see lying around in the streets. Now we have extra room and had warmth in the house and more ashes for the garden... I actually mixed it with a lot of woodash, so it would wind up spread evenly throughout the garden.
We also finally got rid of the Mitsubishi 4x4. A car recycling company came and collected it. It did hurt a bit as it had been a damn fine car. Not really economic or ecological in use, but comfortable, safe and roomy. Getting it fixed was beyond our economic capabilities.... All the other metal junk that had gathered went to the recycling station, including our old refrigerator and stove. Both were old (from the 70's at least), used a lot of electricity and were starting to malfunction. They already were in the process of falling apart anyway. We were able to replace them with newer items (someone else's "junk", because they were cleaning up) for free or real cheap. Amazing what people want to get rid of these days. Both appliances still work flawlessly and the much smaller fridge is practically new!
I found an ad saying someone had a lot of wood from torn down buildings they needed to get rid of. The collector of that no longer needs it and his heirs did not want it.

So we helped them by cleaning up a large part and got a large part of it. I hoped to have enough for a few plans I had. What I ended up with was much more than I thought! Sorting, loading, putting the leftovers back in a pile, unloading and stacking it all in a neat pile again.... Felt sore and stiff as hell after sitting around idly for so long, but I experienced that wonderful fatigue of actually doing something again, too!
I will use some for a woodstorage next to the house, a good deal for the henhouse after that, a compostcontainer and I might even have enough to put a partial floor in the attic! What will not be used, will end up as firewood, like many of the rotten ends. In order to get the wood I needed some large transport, so I asked the potato growing farmer I work for during harvestseason if I could loan a tractor and wagon. And while I was there he asked me if I could take care of another order he had to place in Holland, this time for spareparts. And that's the way things should be, I think. Helping out each other without waving wallets or workhourstats.
While working with the wood I came across a marking that made me stop for a little while. This wood was more than 60 years old!! And much of my things do come from that era. In fact this specific year does pop up regularly......

And then it hit me! A memory from the time I was a young boy, about 7 or 8.. We are living a life and in a situation I used to look down upon! When I was that age I, or we, looked down upon people who did not have a job, who did not have money, who scrounged material or who wore secondhand cloths. We regarded them as unfortunate, as poor sobs and below our standard, maybe even as lesser persons! This was what we were taught. It affected me, my view of the world and my development for many years afterwards...... And now I AM one of those people. Largely by choice, partially by circumstances beyond my control.
Is this karma biting me in the butt? Is this one of the lessons I had to learn? To make me see that this was all wrong?
The realisation did come quite as a shock....

I am also in the process of letting go of stuff that was once pretty important to me, because it defined who I was. I sold off my heavy metal record collection. 35 vinyl records of the more heavy calibre within the metalscene. Made a pretty penny with it and I invested that in the purchase of 2 cherry- and 2 plumtrees (2 prunus avium gårdebo and 2 prunus domestica reine claude). These things are insanely expensive here, but I just want to have cherries and plums!! Should make some good barteringmaterial in a decade or so... ;) These species are hardy here, taste good, yield a decent harvest and are not too big in the end. And since I want to avoid issues with self fertilisation or a tree dying I play it safe-ish. Both images are from, but I got the trees from a local gardencentre.

Another bonus was the ability to go and buy a quarter pig from the local, ecological pig farmer, who do everything themselves from growing the pigs' food to growing the pigs themselves.. And then they get slaughtered at the local slaughterhouse. It felt so good to be able to eat decent, real food again! Not just the knowledge that the Animal in question had a real life, but also the taste and consistency of the meat. It even smells differently... The sight of a large slab of bacon made our mouths water.... And while we were busy cutting and packaging we were closely watched....
Soon the pigs will be out on the fields again. It is a local tourist attraction and many people take their kids to go see the pigs and piglets, roaming and feeding freely.
Thanks to Maria and Anders from Forsa Gård and a bit of extra advertising hopefully goes a long way. Supporting the local economy and all...

I wish you all a happy easter if you're into that or otherwise a good weekend!

My wife's latest woolfelt creation.
Real flowers to the left and eggshaped candles to the right.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Input, input, input.....

Spring is here alright these days. All the snow and ice has gone from our piece of land, but only the top 2-3cm of soil have defrosted. Snow and ice still remains in dark corners and on the lakesurfaces.
Today I found tussilago in bloom, while buzzards were circling over my head, calling. And everything was basking in the sun. However spring is grey looking mostly so far. This early in the season there are plenty of backlashes and wile large parts of Sweden and Norway were covered in a thick blanket of snow again, we remained on the "warm" side of this and received a good dose of rain. And where warm and cold air mix, where rain falls onto ice... there often is fog or low hanging clouds... Dark, doomy, gloomy, miserable and wet.... And yet.... There is a certain mystical beauty in it too.

So with the conditions being as they are, I do what I often do best, besides being bored; I read.... A lot... On all sorts of things. My life right now, well not my life, but many of my spare hours, is being dominated by the gathering of information and the feeding of the brain a.k.a. reading books..... and the internet. And to make things more interesting I do that in four languages; Dutch, German, English and Swedish. Not simultaneously of course... The folks at the library must be going nuts with all the reservations I put out. Or at least think we are dry and dusty bookworms...
Like I mentioned earlier there has been a major shift in interest. The military history and scale modelling are all but history themselves and even the woodsman-thing has moved to the background a bit. That will never disappear, but now other things have moved to the front of the stage; growing food and keeping animals. Bees and chickens mostly.
There are many items and issues I want or need to know more about. Decisions to be made on what course to steer. Practical issues to deal with. This search has lead me to many interesting and eyeopening books, articles, philosophies and the like. Quite an interesting matter, really.

Apart from adapting my personal life to become less dependent on the several systems, I also want to integrate this lifestyle into a professional enterprise.
I envisage a farm/company that produces honest, decent food. Where animals and plants live as close as possible to their roots and in freedom, not being submitted to an onslaught of chemicals or poisons.
The farm also has to function as a unity, creating a complete circle of feeding, fertilizing and producing, ranging from the soil till ones plate.
I have knowledge about growing plants and I have an inner connection to it, too. Doing it on a larger scale will require adapting that knowledge. Keeping animals is new to me, but I am not burdened or weighted down by an education in or knowledge of that subject. Especially not the modern version! So my brain is not filled with all kinds of crap and I am free to absorb any knowledge that feels right to me.
The starting point will be sowing and pre growing vegetables and other edibles in a greenhouse in order to start sales early and give others a chance of growing their own food and then move on to growing them on open land, both for ourselves and for sales. Accompanied by bees and beekeeping, because let's face it, these are interdependent and so are we. The bees would pollinate, we'd get our own honey and above all it is just plain fun! The next move would be the incorporation of livestock; chickens, sheep and cows.

Printing a lot of the information I found on the net proved to be quite necessary. For one I have difficulties reading large volumes of text on a screen. Another thing is that I regularly browse through my bookcase and I like to have books or information close at hand for immediate use and reference should I need it.
Btw I found a great academic study by a Swedish lady, called Jenny Helsing, who studied and calculated how much vegetables ( a selection of the most common sorts) a family of 4 would need to live of in one year; in kg per vegetable, in square meters per vegetable, in labour etc... Very handy piece of reference. EDIT; here's her work as a pdf-file
And a lot on how to deal with certain weeds, companion planting schedules, rules, regulations etc....
And in order to make sure that I do not starve to death and not only my brain gets fed my better half had been making these typical Dutch goodies, called eierkoeken or eggcakes.

Biodynamic or just "plain" ecological/organic?
That is one of the things I am thinking about.
They have similarities and both have much, if not most, in common with what I/we want to do, with what we stand for.
- Would biodynamic or demeter be a good marketing tool? Would the general public, or those interested in decent food, understand what it stands for? Or would it label us to heavily, maybe even push us into a small niche of alternative thinkers? We know Rudolf Steiner's philosophies and anthroposophy in general. Our kids went to a Waldorf School back in Holland and we agree with a good deal of it. But certainly not all! A certain amount of it is based on belief or a bit far fetched. I've seen the, sometimes bordering on the religious/occult/sekt like, behaviour and visions with a good portion of those who follow his way.
If I understood correctly then demeter would require a complete circle within a location. Food, housing, fertilisation, growing... it all has be in tune with each other. That would mean a complete farm... Which would suit me fine, but would also create a steep learning curve.... and a considerable bundle of cash to pay for it all.
Going for this label would not only give us a label to go to the market with, but bind us to certain strict rules and regulations, of which earth, plant and animal benefit.... and of course there are expenses.
- Would ecological be a good marketing tool? There already is so much that uses this label and much of it is not ecological at all. At least not to my specifications. It is being over marketed, growing thin with the public, yet it is a known label.
Being able to use a known label for selling food as organic or ecological also has its rules and regulations and thus expenses. The learning curve would be less steep and I could go step by step. So for now I am leaning much more toward this approach.

Looking at all of this I will need help.... eventually.
That help will have a seasonal character. Hiring staff costs. A lot. So how can people help me, while at the same time I can do something for them in return?
WWOOF comes to mind. Exchanging physical help for free accommodations and stay and the exchange of knowledge and experience. Via via I also came across a site of an organization called "Transition", and this post specifically this changes everything so now what . I must say I like the idea a lot, so maybe that creates possibilities as well. I do not like to get hung up on a certain organisation or idea, so joining them probably will not happen, but the idea itself has merit. There is an international side to this organisation too, if you're interested.

And should all this never materialize..... At least I will have learned a lot, so nothing goes to waste. Neither time nor braincapacity ;-)

Well, I guess it is the best way to spend some of my hours until I can move on to the hands-on-bit. While I keep struggling with a cold that will neither break out or disappear and the change of season to top it of....

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Everything seems to be fine....

or is it?

After the initial panic and massive irritation due to my email issues everything seems to be working... still.
Yes, panic, because I am an absolute digital/hightech disaster. I don't understand it, I don't like it and I don't want to either. As long as everything works as it should I am fine, more or less. But as soon as trouble appears, I am lost.... Massive irritation because I do not see the point of someone creating trouble for others in these matters or any other for that matter. What's the point? Is it fun? Does it create a "positive" boost to an otherwise hopelessly inferior feeling soul? Some spammer who uses email accounts to "spread his message" totally oblivious to the fact that spamming causes nothing but annoyance??

All it did for me was to cause a lot of stress; annoyance, anger and tons of hassle and, I admit it, swearing behind the screen in order to try and get things fixed
By the way my virusscanner did detect something AFTER the incident and it was removed. So much for a firewallvirusdetectorexpensivebugrepellentthingy....
I did not delete the initial account. Had no idea how to and by the time I did, was really deterred by the amount of extra hassle AND personal information the deletion required. For a free emailaccount....

But we're still in the air.....

Sunday, March 22, 2015

My account has been hacked!

Apparently someone broke into my hotmailaccount.
This was the email linked to this blog.
Any and all emails anyone might get through; these are NOT mine.
I deleted that account.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Let there be light after dark

Everything's a mess. It continues to thaw by day and refreeze by night. The roads and tracks turn into ribbons and rivers of mud and water. The dog is shedding his wintercoat and the itch is driving him mad. He scratches himself ferociously leaving tufts of loose hair between his toes and nails, while an aura of flying hair and dust surrounds him at all times. Muddy boots in the hall, muddy pawprints in every other living area and the grinding sound of sand, wherever you go. Wintercoats and snowboots, rain- or thin jackets and rubber boots, mittens, gloves, knitted hats..... Chaos rules... The time is at hand to clean up, clear out the old and bring in the new...

And while our latest member of the family takes the most credit for the present mess, he also ensures our lives do not get boring otherwise.
How is one supposed to get mad at this??
He has been developing into this glad, happy, energetic, boisterous, not always equally obedient fellow, who has been developing a trait I never experienced in one of the dogs I had or dealt with; he talks... No really: He does. When spoken to or when he himself speaks, he doesn't bark or whine. He makes these noises more inside his mouth and throat that sounds a bit like mrawr wroowroowwrow (you're trying it now, aren't you?) and similar versions in varying and alternating intensity, volume and order. Depending on the occasion; food, go out for a walk, playtime... One can actually have a conversation with him! He answers you and it often is hilarious... Just not at 05:45 am next to the bed into one's ear. When laying down on the couch (I had to give in here due to group pressure) he also moans, groans and sighs like an old tired man. He even smiles at times! Rub or scratch him in a particular way and you'll see his eyes turning to slits and the corners of his mouth curling up. And then he has this special wry smile.... Really I sometimes swear he was a human in a previous life, having returned as a dog to get taught a lesson. But when I see him play with one (1!) bit of his dry food, I swear he was a cat somewhere down the line too! He sure is a one of a kind character!

The weather has been exceptionally good the period before the weekend, last week, week and a half. High temperatures, much sun. Typical that exactly at this weekend, with the aurora, eclipse and equinox, the weather turns winterly....
The high daytime temperatures, coupled with cold nights, makes that the ice on the lakes melts and refreezes, causing tremendous stresses within the ice and we can hear it! Even when indoors. The ice groans and moans all the time, often giving off booming sounds, but especially during the mornings, when the sun is warming up, the sounds become violent. It starts to crack, long drawn out cracks ending with a sharp snap, reverberating through the valley. Reminds us of lighting during a fierce summer thunderstorm played in slow mode.
The sun is illuminating spider threads as they waft through the air, loosely strung between the branches of trees and bushes, the light caught in the filaments, turning them into threads of gold. The open water of the lake shimmers and sparkles in a dazzling display of light and in the early morning ice crystals grow out of the ground reflecting the light of the rising sun like diamonds, before the warm rays turn them into water once more. On the other hand I am waiting for the warmth to clear the forest floor. The thaw and freeze cycle has transformed much of it into sheets of ice, often looking like glass, polished smooth and transparent. However in between the trees, pine and spruce mostly, the ground is free. At least the very top. Underneath the moss, leaves and twigs the ground is still rock hard. Yet these are places the sun does not reach, but they appear to be warmer than the areas the sun does reach....

The sun was also otherwise very active, creating the perfect conditions for magnificent displays of the northern light.... of which we saw practically none, because King Winter sent us a shroud of clouds, stubbornly trying to fight of the light, only revealing the light in the dead of night.

Still feast your eyes on some images of what it looked like in the immediate area. The following images are sent in by readers of Lucky bastards... or less sleepy ones...
Ornäs Borlänge
Varpan, Falun

Falu Gruvan, Falun
There was another equally or maybe even more stunning display of light and dark, a solar eclipse, but again that was not visible to us, for the same reason. But whatever King Winter throws at us, he can not stop the advance of the season of light...
The eclipse itself was, as said, not visible to us. The only thing we saw, was snow falling onto a slightly darkening, grey world with a faint orange tinge to it at the moment of the eclipse here. As I stood by the window, looking out, I saw a crow working its way around an apple I had thrown out earlier this morning. It opened its beak a bit, jabbed it into the apple and flew away with it. It actually flew away with one complete apple!
Another thing that was quite noticeable was the arrival of a large flock of returning birds; bofink (or common chaffinch) and bergfink (or brambling); one or two dozen of each. They were joined by not only blåmes and talgoxe (blue and great tits), but also by grönfink (greenfinches), gul sparv (yellowhammers), some domherre (bullfinch) and I even thought I saw grön siska (eurasian siskin) And they did make quite an audible display! At one point all these species were foraging on the ground with even one of the woodpeckers joining them. And when I took the camera and pointed it at them..... they all instantly vanished in a flurry of wingbeats.
This choir of birds became a lot less audible, as the darkening went on and as it did I felt the already present unease building up ever faster into a sense of tension. In my gut, my chest, my spine....Later on, when the sun reappeared the world had this strange, bright almost glorious feel to it... As if it had been renewed in a way.. liberated.... And I could breathe! Really bizarre.

And then there was this strange episode I told about in between the solar eclipse and the equinox of the 20th; Skogens andar

Vårdagjaämning.... The moment where day and night are of equal length... As of that moment the days will be longer than the nights.
There has been so much going on lately, we thought it appropriate to celebrate, commemorate that by having a little special something; the first fire in the garden. Too bad the weather wasn't playing along. On thursday evening the weather turned sharply, clouds sweeping in, temperatures dropping. The forecast for friday was cold, a thick blanket of clouds, windy and mild snowfall mixed with rain. The forecasters predicted everything right this time... except that there was more snow and as it turned out of a much dryer nature later in the night. So the planned celebration with a open fire and a homebrewed beer in the garden was held inside....
The next morning the sun turned the world into a dazzling wonderland with an intensity that is so much different than during winter. Much more intense, much fuller, much more blinding, sparkling. The cover of snow showed we have a very active fox in the immediate area still.
The world started dripping again very soon, adding yet more water to the already saturated ground.
And as winter is giving way to spring, the idiots of summer are beginning to return, invading the peacefulness, ripping apart the veil of quiet with motocross bikes and quads with bad or no mufflers.....

our world saturday morning 06:30 am
And later in the afternoon...

found this little guy next to the wood stack
Despite the ground still being frozen (so I'll have to wait a little longer to start doing some real gardening work), some things are already in progress.
I fixed and filled the woodstorage next to the backdoor. New pallets on the ground, new planks on the side, new fixing in the ceiling. The shoddy wood storage down in the garden we used last winter really wasn't adequate to say the least. So I started removing the wood from it and started tearing it down.
We should have started cleaning up big time; a whole bunch of scrap should've been collected today. the Mitsubishi "wreck", the old moosetub (the bathtub where the moosehide resided for a couple of weeks), the old gas powered grasscutter, 2 old bicycles... The fellow that should come by didn't... again. I hate it when people do that!

And what man doesn't clean up, nature eventually will....
This was earlier last week btw.