Monday, November 23, 2015

Winter's knocking at our door - new camera and bag

Well, not exactly new, but new-ish to us... me.
It is the digital camera my father in law used to use and we are using it now. I took it with me on sunday just to try it out with the "new" bag for it and out in the cold. Because it was cold; -3°C at 13:00.
Today we woke up to an even colder world; -13°C at 07:00.
The camera in question is a Sony DSLR A100 with a 18-200mm and a 100-300mm lens. The bag I "made" for it is a green British army respirator bag retrofitted with the canvas belt of one of my wife's old handbags. The previous owner of the army bag had cut off the ones that were standard. This bag fits the camera and the lenses perfectly! It is sturdy and sheds water, but had a lot of velcro sewn into it. So that all had to go, just to make the bag silent. I tried the bag on a waist belt too, but that was no success. Too heavy and kept banging with one corner into the rear of the upper leg.

So I'll show you the first test results.... I did not alter the images in any way.

I shot these through the not sparkling clean kitchen window. 
I am so glad I did not take all the rosehips!

This one I only cut down to size a bit...

Ice already forming on the lakes. On monday the lake was pretty much closed up with ice.

The star of the photoshoot!!

And my absolute favorite!!

And then some images from this morning;
Cut this one down to size again...

Not all that bad for a first go, I'd say....

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Test of a new product - Ambronite drinkable supermeal

About 5 weeks ago I received an email from someone called Valerie Vlasenko, saying she contacted me because of my blog. She is part of a team and company, called Ambronite, who had developed a new "drinkable supermeal" and she figured that, because of my audience and shared interests in the outdoors, I might be interested in trying some of it.
As she wrote;
 5 quick facts about Ambronite:
  • It is real, nutritious whole food that satisfies hunger for 4-5 hours.
  • Ambronite contains 100% of all daily nutrients, fulfils US and EU nutritional guidelines for all nutrients: healthy fats, carbs, protein, and all 24 vitamins and minerals + fiber
  • Used by competitors in world series like Volvo Ocean Race, Adventure Racing World Series and Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. Also recommended by outdoor & world travellers:
At first I was very sceptical, since I do not favour any form of processed foods at all, especially that powdered stuff. But I did check their website Ambronite and they claimed that they only use whole foods, no additives or any weird stuff. Just 100% natural plants, nuts and fruits, many of them from Scandinavia. Ambronite is Finland-based by the way.
So I decided to give it a go, see what it was all about and I received a package within a week.

After that I contacted Matt, the Weekend Woodsman, since I'd be visiting him and asked if he was interested in joining me, while testing it. He agreed and so part of the package followed me into Finland woods.

So we did try it.
How did we like it? Mmm.... we were quite unanimous that it was not the best processed food we had ever tried. Far from, actually. But before I tell you why, I'll start at the beginning.

About a week and a half before I would leave for Finland I received a package from Finland. Upon opening that I found this; neatly packed, very professional looking. No screaming ads, just a no nonsense sturdy box and pleasing color.
The contents; one box with 10 sachets/meals, a large, sturdy plastic shaker with drinking opening and a sturdy, almost cardlike sheet of  printed, glossy paper with a lot of info on minerals, vitamins and energy breakdown. The backside of the sachets also shows much of that information, including a very simple, but effective diagram on how to use the product. One sachet is claimed to hold 500 calories.

Now to the field test. As I said we did a double test. Matt kept to the "recipe", adding 550ml of water, but since I did not bring the shaker, he had to stir it. That was not that easy, since the power builds clumps in the water. He managed after about 5 minutes.
I used a standard  issue, 750ml military canteen. Many out there use those, so that might be a good reference. So I poured the contents into the canteen, added water to fill it and shook it. No problems here at all.
The color of the "meal" was a non appealing olive green. It reminded us of the backpacks and such we use. The consistency looked and felt a bit course and we unanimously dubbed it "liquid canvas".

Upon opening the sachets a vague, but distinct odor became apparent. It reminded us of those pet rabbit food pellets, which is not a real surprise if you take the ingredients used into account. The first sips were no culinary highlight, but after the initial threshold it is not as bad anymore. The taste is very hard to describe. It tastes a bit like it smells, with a distinct hint of oats. I also thought I recognised the spinach and spirulina.
After I had finished a little over half my canteen I couldn't take anymore. Feeling full is not the best description. Having a lump in my stomach comes close. Matt wouldn't budge and was determined to have the whole lot. He added squashed banana to it to make it more palatable. Adding the equivalent of 2 bananas to 1 sachet made it acceptable, according to him.
After that we went for a hike through the woods, to see if we would indeed feel fed and energised. We were full yes, but not in a pleasant way as I previously described. We kept burping all the time and that lasted into the evening. I brought my partially filled canteen with the thought of finishing it during the hike, but the very thought of drinking it became revolting. The canteen did not leave my pack.
We did feel an appetite for something real coming up after 2-3 hrs.

Did Ambronite live up to the promises they make at their homepage, like "ready to upgrade your life?" and "taking the hunger away for 4-5 hrs, reaching optimal productivity in 2 minutes"?
No. Not with us.
But in all fairness neither Matt nor I use or are used to products like this. No (freeze)dried, powdered or other quick fixes in a bag. Matt does occasionally use ready meals in cans. I do not.
Will I use it? If my life depended in it, yes. In any other case a definite no.
Matt kept 2 bags for emergency cases and that is what this product would be to both of us; an emergency food only. Emergency as in nothing-to-eat-starving or as an extra boost to an already existing meal or soup.... maybe.

Would I recommend it?
Well.... guess....
And at €89 for a set of 10 meals.... For that kind of cash I can put together more and much more satisfying meals with whole foods. I'll just have to lug the (lot of) extra weight, since 1 sachet weighs only 120grs. A regular meal would easily be 3-4 times that, preparation weight (pots, pans, fuel) not included.

I can see there might be a market for it and looking at their webpage it is not so much the active outdoor community they seem to be targeting, but more the busy citydweller. I really do applaud Ambronite's effort for creating and marketing a "healthy" version of processed ultralight (hike)foods, but I feel that they tried to compromise on too many things; vegan, healthy, nutritious, (too) easy to use, lightweight and to me important things like taste or appeal got pushed too far into the background.

Many thanks to Valerie and the Ambronite-team for providing me with the product.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

The final stretch of the trip...

Sunday morning we were supposed to get up in time and be on the road by 08:00. That became 09:30. We just did not feel like rushing and stressing.
The main objective was to drive south toward Helsinki, a 5hr drive, to meet up with Kai. There we would head out, hike toward a lavvu (shelter) in a national park and spend the night there, before we would visit Varusteleka surplus store in Helsinki on monday. After that Matt would drop me off at Helsinki airport for my flight back to Stockholm and my train back home.
Last night we heard the news of the horrendous attacks in Paris, killing and injuring hundreds. Knowing what I know I really wondered if it would not be another false flag operation. Would be highly convenient in the current refugésituation and with the upcoming climate convention in Paris. I chose not to pay anymore attention to the happening, no matter how evil it was. I figured I would see or hear nothing else for the next week or so...
It had been snowing again last night and it was still snowing when we left. That was to change the further south we came. The color of the sky did not change. That remained various shades of grey with the darker ones being dominant. The snow changed to rain of various intensities.

The little house in the back is the sauna
The drive south was uneventful and we stopped at a highway restaurant for lunch. There Matt also bought provisions for the overnighter, which made me feel bad. My financial situation had seriously deteriorated due to my wife having to buy new brakes and brake discs for the car. The right front one was broken, so both sides at the front had to be replaced. And that in a month where we already had to miss my income.... Sometimes I really wonder when this stops. I am getting really fed up with it!
It ruined my mood a little, but I tried not to let it show....
As we were approaching the Helsinki area the weather started improving slightly. The rain lessened and we even saw some blue and gold. The clouds opened up and let through a rare ray of sunshine! That would be so nice if we were spending the night in the woods!!!
However..... things would not turn out as planned.....
We arrived much later at Kai's place then anticipated and somehow Kai did not look really ready or eager to get going. He told us his wife would prepare Chinese food (which I love and have been missing ever since we moved to Sweden!), so we'd have dinner first. The welcome we received was heartwarming and after the initial introductions we gathered around the kitchen table and were treated to soup and minced meat filled dough balls.
One thing lead to another and we found ourselves still sitting at the table at 20:00 caught up in lively conversation, much too late to be heading out. Matt hadn't really been in the mood actually and I somehow suspect Kai neither and me? Well, I would have enjoyed spending a night out in a lavvu with a fire, grilling sausages and having a beer. But I got something much better; social interacting and gaining friends!
Because we talked..... talked all evening and Kai turned out to be pretty un-Finnish in that matter, since he also seemed to have a liking to talking. Liya, Kai's wife, also participated lively and I relished it. I have been missing this sooo much! Talking and discussing with like minded people. All sorts of subjects came up. Paris of course. Food and illnesses, comparing cultures, family. Even politics and religion! All in good respect and with decency. Who ever said to avoid those latter 2 topics in a discussion?
Yet we men felt that we did need to get out for fresh air and movement and we figured we might go for a walk through the area in the dark. Liya and the boys however did join us and we were out for a good while. Still talking, breathing fresh air....
Pretty tired we turned in for the night just after 22:00. I did spend the night in a sort of outdoorsy fashion though; on a sleeping mat on the floor under an Italian army wool blanket. ;)
I did not have the best night's sleep ever. I have very much grown out of camping. That became painfully obvious. Nevertheless I was not all that tired anymore and I joined Kai's family in their morning ritual, after I waited for about half an hour, so they could get going, before I came barging in.
Some things are universal and getting a bunch of young kids ready for school on a monday morning is one of them. Couldn't help but smiling in recognition. :) I was treated to a typical Finnish breakfast, according to Kai; oatmeal porridge with lingonberries, rye bread with cheese and coffee. Hej, no complaints here!!

Shortly afterwards Liya had to be off to work and I got a hug as a goodbye. We'd be on our way too, soon. Off to the Varusteleka surplus store before lunch and after lunch the airport. As we enter Helsinki I notice a strong smell. The pungent, industrial odor (stench is more like it) of the city. Sickening.
The store in it self was nice and had a couple of really cool features. Some displays were museumlike with dummies dressed up in (old) uniforms, weapons on the walls and even machinegunpits up along the walls!! The merchandise however was typical for these days. Much of the really cool and good old stuff was gone and replaced by shoddy former Iron Curtain army items or mil-tec replicas. I was actually hoping to find one of those Finnish wool pants. They had 3, all of them way to big for me. Matt had wanted to buy me a souvenir, but there was nothing I wanted, did not already have or needed. I left the shop empty handed and that is saying something!!!
Like I said before I did bring home something much more valuable; friendship. And an old German BW backpack Matt gave me. A so-called Gebirgsjäger backpack in canvas. How's that for a souvenir!!
However some knives did follow some of my companions home.....
After this Kai took us to a lunch restaurant that serves good food. Good, I'd be needing that for the rest of the day! It was one of those places where workingmen would go for their lunch. It resembled a 60's or 70's factorycanteens and the food indeed was very good! I made sure my battery got recharged well and then it was time to say goodbye to Kai as well.
But in the meantime however plans had been made for summer visits or even an autumn meet including Odd (Skaukraft) from Norway and Pasi from Finnish Lapland. Now that would be something!!!
A little later we arrive at the airport, only a 5 minute drive from the restaurant. Matt follows me in and shortly after check in it is time for the final goodbye. Damn, I so suck at this!! Once again I am alone in a chaotic environment and once again I see people staring at screens, oblivious of their surroundings. I feel so out of place, not just because I am reading Vanier's snowchild as a hard copy or am writing down my thoughts and recollections in a small notebook. Y'know, with a pen and with turnable pages..... It doesn't matter. In an hour I'll be boarding the plane that will take me back to Swedish soil, to the train that will take me back to southern Dalarna.... Back home...
5 hours later I step of the train and I immediately hear a little girl's voice calling me. My youngest daughter just had to come along and pick me up. My wife greets me with a hug and a kiss. The tears in her eyes were caused by the wind blowing freely across the trainstation, she said. Mine were not....

Matt and yours truly...
Thanks for everything, my friend 
and that is a name or title I do not give to just anyone.

The third and final day...

at least at Matt's cabin.

During the night I woke up a few times, hearing the wind blowing around the cabin and through the trees and hearing the rain patter down on the roof, occasionally followed by a gush as water was blown down from tree branches. Now that sounded good.....
When daylight broke I could see no more white. Everything was soaking wet and grey. Neither of us felt inclined to go out in this kind of weather and we spent the morning gear-oogling as Matt called it; checking out each others gear, looking at what the other had, used or had come up with. It is always interesting to see what someone else uses and I think it is remarkable that, despite folks like us are basically doing the same thing, the tools with which to achieve that are often so very different, based on personal preference and experience. The basis is practically always the same; a backpack, a knife or 2, axe and cookingset. I got the chance to take another look at the Swedish LK35 and LK70 backpacks. Allthough I liked the look of the latter in canvas it also became clear once more that these packs are not for me. Their frames and my back simply do not match.

I also got a good look at the Skrama Matt reviewed a while ago (look here; Skrama info). A beast of a knife and while I at first was under the impression that it was more like something for the zombie apocalypse I came to understand that that certainly was not the case. It can be a very useful tool when being out. The same goes for the leuku I could examine. Holding one for the first time again its size was impressive. For me however it is one more thing to scratch from the wishlist. Simply not my style, even if it looked and felt good. Made my Mora Classic No.1 seems very flimsy and boyscout-ish.
By that time it was lunchtime and it was time for something very different. Because of my blog I had been contacted by a company called Ambronite and they wondered if I would be willing to test their product; a new drinkable supermeal. I had contacted Matt to ask if he would be willing to participate and he was, so our lunch would be a drinkable supermeal. I'll do a full review on that shortly in a separate post. However the aftermath of that test did stay with us for the rest of the day and was subject to conversation for the rest of my stay in Finland....

We were feeling a little cooped up and we also wanted to see if the "meal" would indeed keep us "satisfied" until the next meal, so we went for a short afternoon hike. It had stopped raining for the moment and as we had noticed that the temperature had gone up a notch. The hike was uneventful in itself, but it was nice to explore the forests some more. Discovered some nice places for camps and a good place for spotting wildlife. The "fulfilling meal" did not last and we returned to the cabin, where Matt did some more small fixes. We went for an early dinner, eating the leftovers from previous days, heated in appropriate style. This also showed to great effect the purpose of a glass window in a stove; infrared radiation. If you stood in front of the stove, while heating dinner the front portion of the legs and slightly higher regions got very hot quickly. But if you moved a little sideways you could stand there and stir in to pan, even though the side was quite warm too. We could even feel the difference on the couch across the room. Right in front of the stove would be quite warm, in the middle it would be comfortable and on the far side nice and cool. Infrared heat beams into the room and warms a great deal of it. It is not just the rising heat from the stove. That's why I keep the window of our fireplace as clean as possible, because with a blackened window all that heat is lost.
After dinner we picked up where we left before lunch; gear. During our gear-oogling we noticed that some things needed more attention and work; the sharpies. Especially Matt thought he had been neglecting his knives and axes and mine could do with a good sharpening too. Besides it really is relaxing just focussing on the job and hearing the metal gently scraping back and forth...
2 guys, sharpening a good number of knives, axes and a hatchet in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. Nothing sounds wrong, right?
Matt jokingly said that that was exactly the kind of thing we as kids were being warned for back in the days....

After the sharpeningsession we enjoyed a beer and kind of fell silent. We had done a good deal of talking in the past days.... I picked up Proenneke's book again and decided that that one will stay in the cabin, when I leave....
We cleaned up as much as possible, before turning in early for the night. The day after we would be heading toward Helsinki to meet up with Kai again.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Living in a cabin with a "stranger"....

I must say I am quite envious of Matt and his cabin. It is a quiet, cosy and comfortable little place with all the amenities that even would make living there permanently no big an issue. Except maybe for shopping and schools.

As I said we slept in a little late the first morning. It was supposed to be a little vacation for both of us and there were no fixed plans, only a vague idea of what we might or could do. When we woke up one of my hopes had come true, sort of. There was snow on the ground. Not much and quite mushy, but still.
Matt relit the fire in the middle of the night, since it was getting pretty cold in the cabin. It hadn't been warmed for a long time and just a few hours in the evening was not enough to completely drive away the cold that hung in the cabin. My bunk was directly in front of the stove and I lay a while dozing off, whilst looking at the dancing flames and listening to the crackling fire.. I felt really at peace.

That link even holds a recipe!!
At breakfast Matt introduced me to Finnish rye bread. Much to my surprise it turned out to be exactly the kind of bread my grandma used to give m,e as a young boy, when I lived at their place! I remembered the technique she used to cut even, half a cm thick slices and I tried that too. All it takes is a sharp knife with a non serrated edge. You hold the bread vertically against your chest and just take a slice off. It was quite a powerful reminder and I felt overjoyed and quite moved that there I was; more than 2200 kilometers and 40 years away, but doing the very same thing she had done..... It even tasted the same!
In the meantime I was quite glad I could finally fulfill an at least 2 year old promise; I could hand Matt the Swedish snow anorak I had gotten him so long ago and that had been sitting in my mancave all this time.

Some pictures I took of the old house next to the cabin
The log walls are covered in woodshingles and the space between the windowpanes is filled with moss to absorb the moisture that gets in between the panes.

The weather was pretty much the same as the day before. Only the temperature had dropped a bit more and thus there was snow and sleet in the air too. We did not want to be cooped up all day, so Matt suggested he'd show me some of his land. We walked and climbed for a while through a clear cut, through a piece of forest, up a hill, down again, towards a nearby lake and via a dirt road back again. The woods are pretty much the same as at home and yet they felt different in a way. I saw much less animalsign for instance, even though Matt assured me that they were there.

This was pretty much the only blue we saw.....

By the time we made it back to the main road we were met by a yellow combo; one of the farmers from the area. Matt started talking with him and before I knew it I was sitting in the back of that combo, on the way to a fishing enterprise!
Yes, we were going fishing..... We drove for a while and then the driver, the farmer called Visa, got out and showed us a river dam and told us how they had caught up to 15 beavers in the direct area, not so long ago. I jokingly said that they'd make good mittens and he replied that their tail fat makes good fat for taking care of one's leather boots! The things you learn..... We drove a while until we reached a cabin and pier; Visa's lake cabin, We loaded the box with nets into the boat, jump started the engine and off we went..... Visa behind the wheel, Matt in the bow and I in the middle. Out on the lake the nets had to be lowered and tied together as the previous one sank down. Because of the wind picking up the boat's stern regularly drifted uncomfortably close to the nets and I lended a hand with keeping the nets straight, so that Visa could keep the propeller clear from the nets.

Like I said the temperature was low, just above freezing, the wind was picking up, it was starting to snow lightly and the nets and thus my hands got wet. Not very pleasant, but that just showed how hardy folks like Visa are. He never wore gloves nor did he bury his hands deep in his pockets. I did...
After the nets were out Visa looked at us and asked if we were cold. No, of course not! Good, than he would take us for a little tour on the lake. At first he kept a relaxed speed, but after a certain point he cranked on the throttle and we sped over the lake. It is hard to guess with little reference points nearby, by we were at least doing 50km/h and it got cold!!  I looked it up just now and according to windchillcharts the experienced temperatures would be about -8C! Small snowflakes/raindrops stung in our faces like needles and the eyes got watery. Now I did bury my hands with knitted gloves even deeper into my pockets!
But what a feeling! Whoah! Felt so alive! The boat hitting the small waves, the cold, the stinging, the air and shoreline rushing by. The clouds mostly (dark)grey, but occasionally brightening. And I recall that I noticed how different the smell was from the lakes back home. Weird, huh.
I was only wearing a t-shirt, wool sweater and my anorak, but never did get uncomfortable. The anorak blocked the wind very effectively! So glad I got those when I did! A good distance out on the lake Visa told us the lake would eventually extend out toward Kuopio, about 40 kilometers away. No idea what the name was of the part we were in. Try looking at Finnish names and you might understand why...

In the distance there hung a white curtain across the lake; snow and we were heading for that. But just before we were about to reach that we spotted some white spots near the shoreline to the right and Visa steered towards them. They turned out to be swans, with one acting a bit strange, lying still with its head mostly down or underwater. He set course toward them, slowly and gently to see if it might be injured. We could come quite close, up to about 5 meters, but there was nothing wrong with them. They took off. We could hear their wings move and we could hear the wind rushing past the wings. They do need quite a bit of runway and we watched them fly off; majestically with their feet walking across the water.... Only to land again a bit further away. We did not disturb them anymore and set course back to the cabin and pier.

Visa opened up the throttle once more and the previous scenery repeated itself again. The boat bobbing across the waves, 2 figures huddled up in the front, bearing the onslaught of wind and icy needles. This time it was full speed all the way and I was quite glad when the pier came into view. But what a wonderful bonus it had been!!! Some days are full of surprises and just turn out great! In hindsight I was glad I brought my wife's cellphone instead of the camera. I would not have been able to operate that one under these conditions!
But the day wasn't over yet, even though it was getting quite dark already at 14:30. Visa dropped us off at the cabin, where we quickly got the stove going again and we did some small fixes on the cabin before it got too dark. After that we made arrangements for dinner. Today the honor was mine, which I did not mind at all. I somehow like the cooking related to the outdoors most. One of my favorite outdoor activities. And I got to make my favorite recipe; chili! Well, actually there is no recipe. I have a bunch of standard ingredients that I mix in whatever quantities there are available and with whatever other ingredients might be around. I just hoped Matt would like it too. After a while the cabin filled with warmth and heartwarming odours and I have to say the meal turned out very well. Matt helping himself to a second round too did confirm that. There was still enough left for lunch the next day or so.
After a fulfilling meal Matt suggested I'd try a sauna. I had done that once, a long time ago and that experience was not the best one, but hey when you're in Finland.... I had the rye bread, did try a very good Finnish beer, called Olvi, so it would not be complete without THE thing Fins are known for, so I agreed. As he was busy firing up the sauna and getting it ready, I kept the fire going inside and continued reading Dick Proenneke's "One man's wilderness". Quite a fitting read...
After a while the sauna was ready and Matt briefly explained the how's and why's and off I went.... into the unknown heat! I have no idea how long I was in there, but after the initial unpleasant heat I started adapting, scooping up water from the wooden bucket and pouring that onto the hot stones and being amazed at the amount of sweat a body can produce. Occasionally I went out for a quick cool off and a drink of water and went back in again. Kept doing that until the bucket with water was empty. Then it was time to refill that bucket and a longer cool off, after which I poured the cool water over me. Amazingly refreshed and reinvigorated I went back to the cabin and Matt took his turn.
Thinking back to the hot tub I experienced back home and now the sauna..... I knew that would mean new buildingprojects coming up one day. We will have them both!!
Ohh... and ladies.... such a sauna will leave your skin feeling soft and peachy as a baby's butt!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A Dutch guy from Sweden in Finland.....

5 nights away from home and family, facing long traveltimes, crowded airports, planes and trains, alone, to meet people I've never met before in a country which' language is completely not understandable... Yep, saying I was overstepping the borders of my comfortzone here would be a slight understatement. No, not just slight.... major. But the reward was worth it!!

Just to start at the beginning; I was going to travel to Finland in order to meet Matt, the Weekend Woodsman, a fellow outdoorblogger, with whom I had been having contact over the last few years, like commenting on each other's blogs and mailing back and forth. The initial idea came up a long time ago, but it kept getting put on hold, due to a number of reasons, until my wife finally decided I had to go. Period. And like any sensible, married man.... I obeyed. Reluctantly, but still.
The plan was to go to Stockholm airport by train, by plane to Helsinki, Finland, where Matt would pick me up for a 5 hour drive to Kuopio. So the necessary transportation and tickets got booked in advance, mainly to make sure I had a seat and to keep costs as low as possible.
While I was getting affected by pre-travel-stress, which I have everytime I travel, a last minute change of plans came in; Matt could not pick me up, but someone else would come and pick me up, deliver me to the central station at Helsinki and arrange for my journey to continue by train from there. That person would be Kai, known to me as Finnman, who also used to have his outdoorblog until 2 years ago. That did nothing to ease my apprehension....
The other non-contributing factors were luggage- and, as always, financial limitations. We probably would be hitting the woods in the Kuopio-area, so what to bring if you are limited to 20kgs in one bag? Backpack, outdoorgear, sleepingbag and -mat, spare clothes and other bits 'n bobs.... I tried and fitted, weighed and rearranged.... I felt I could not turn up emptyhanded, but the gifts I had come up with, either Danish flint nodules or a filled hipflask, had to stay.

On the day of departure my family followed me to the trainstation and the last view of my home was one, where the pink/blue/ grey sky of predawn was reflected in the lake, leafless trees rising above a light mist and white fields.... With a lump in my throat I boarded the train, taking a deep breath as the train set in motion. Strange how a man can change.
I looked out the window, seeing the Swedish landscape glide by, hills and forests, white with frost, banks of fog rising from fields, streams and lakes, cast in the glorious light of a rising sun. I could clearly see Mars and Jupiter high up in the sky. As I got closer to Stockholm the landscape grew boring, flat, with more traces of modern civilisation. The train started filling up more and more and I was glad I prebooked a seat. I tried focussing on my hunterscourse book, but realised I could not. Too many distractions. So I started looking around, noticing people plugging in their laptops and phones into sockets next to the seats. The last time I travelled by train, none of those came as standard. Many a head bowed down as in worship to the gods of communicationstechnology.

2 hrs. later I was at Arlanda airport and I was struck by the amount of sensory input I was confronted with; people, noises, lights and movement everywhere. I quickly checked in at a computer, where my boardingcard and bagagelabel were printed. No humans involved.... I did find one at the luggage droppoint and he was a tad suspicious at all the echoes the x-ray showed, while scanning my bag. No wonder; cookingpots, canteen, knives and a hatchet.... It had to be x-rayed a secondtime, before he was convinced. After that I quickly proceeded toward the gate I was supposed to be leaving from, thinking I might find a lesser crowd there. As I did..... I had to wait 3 hrs. before my flight would leave, because I chose to take a train earlier than strictly needed, since Swedish railways do not have the best record or name in arriving on time.... 3 hrs. of watching the zombie society; bowed heads, staring at screens, tapping away at keys. Long tables along the windowsides with powersockets every half a meter, so you can keep your devices powered up.
I sit there and read, write notes or just watch people. People walking by, dragging their luggage, phone in one hand, looking at it and not paying any kind of attention where they're going. Bumping into luggage or other people, looking up irritated as if they expect the other one to pay attention for them and clear their way. Travelcompanions sitting next to each other, not exchanging words, seeing a young man watching a young woman with more than casual interest, but she only sees her screen. What opportunity might have gotten lost there?

The flight is pretty uneventful. The closer we get to Finnish mainland, the more the clouds thicken; thin strips like waves turn into thicker bands until it all becomes one, the sun making it all look like a hilly landscape in winter. Than we descend through the clouds, always an interesting experience and we're through the clouds. Below us another layer of clouds with a large opening in it and as if intended the plane banks pretty hard right and I look right down through it, seeing a landscape in grey nearby. We're there.
As I leave the airport, there is no sign of Kai. He calls about 10 minutes later, saying he will be late. After pickup Kai drives to the trainstation, gets a ticket and escorts me to the train. We have to wait a good while and Kai turns out to be no typical Fin. He likes to talk. Thank God. So do I. We talk about all sorts of things and the first comparisons between what I know of Sweden and what he knows about Finland are made.
Then comes a long trainride toward Kuopio. Almost 5hrs that will take. It is very quiet in the train, despite a good deal of people on board. No one talks. Apparently a Finnish thing. I arrive late at night, exhausted with a bad headache. A sensory overload.
Matt picks me up on time and we talk almost as if we know each other until at around 23:00 all brainfunctions start failing. It's lights out....

The next day we will be going out to Matt's cabin in the countryside, so we start packing up. But not before we have taken a stroll through the city centre. It is nothing spectacular. Matt introduces me to his son, who is at the daycare and on our way back we visit a large secondhandstore. One I noticed on our way to the daycare. Why can't I pass one by?? I ended up buying a €3 mosquito jacket, an anorak made out of fine netting with a face covering hood. That will always come in handy.
After that we pack up the car and head out to the cabin; a 1hr 40 minute drive. But not after we did some grocery shopping and stopped over at a hardware store. There are some small things to fix at the cabin.
The weather is cold, grey and wet. It rains and drizzles most of the time and the temperature hovers around 4C. We arrive at the cabin at around 15:45, just before darkness sets in. It was pretty cold in there, so the first thing Matt did, was to light the stove.... Ahhh....
We throw together an omelette dinner and cooperation was smooth. We spent most of the evening having a beer and talking. It feels as if we have known each other for quite some time. Over the next few days I would learn quite a bit about traditional insulation in logcabins, the use and installation of off grid solarpanels and systems and composttoilets

We turn in early and sleep in late... sort of.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Some thoughts and lessons on foodpreservation

among other things.....

The posts about lessons continue....
There is the gardeningaspect; I am taking composting serious these days and I am quite surprised and pleased with the results so far! Working in layers really helps as does additional and occasional watering. Last week I gathered the leaves from the lawns and after having turned over this year's compost I covered that with a thick layer of leaves. That should make great compost and will act as a blanket, so the compostingproces can go on longer, before the wintercold puts a stop to it. The compost was full of worms, much to my delight.
As a next step in my experiments with feeding the soil of the plantbeds I covered the ones we used this year with a layer of leaves too. See if that will help loosening and regenerating the soil to an acceptable level without digging. So far I have done the covered/raised beds, the dig up the weed routine and now the cover in plantmaterial way.

We are repeating the canningprocess with the things we learned like broth (Well, my wife knows how to. For me it was the first time solo) and new things as in "processed foods" like pastasauce, gulash and a chickenrecipe with pineapple and raisins. Good to have on hand and a good way to use ingredients that might spoil easy. We use a lot of bellpeppers/paprika, tomatoes and champignons/mushrooms. This also means having food that no longer requires energy in order to store.
And then I was surprised by a package arriving from the UK! One of the members of BCUK, called British Red, who also has a homesteading blog, called the English countrlife, sent me some things to plant, which are not available here anymore and are generally not easy to come by; ecological garlic and shallots. He also included a package of Dutch brown beans and a package of parsnip seeds. The garlic and shallots I planted right away and covered the ground with leaves as a blanket against the frosts, before they get to severe.

And the next step was drying. We have a lot of rosehips and I want to have those as a vitamin C-supplement coming winter. So I've harvested those and dried them after which I ground them into a powder to be blended into yoghurt or other dishes. Maybe some marmalade/jam too.
I generally followed this step by step, found on

After this I will be off to Finland soon. A 5 day digital detox so to speak. No facebook, blogger, forums or what not.
I'm feeling quite nervous actually. Really stepping out of my comfortzone here, travelling long distance, alone, meeting people I've never seen before, being away from my family for 5 nights....
The original plan was to take the train to the airport, fly to Helsinki to be picked up there by the weekend woodsman and drive to Kuopio. The day before the trip he contacted me and we had to rearrange the final part of the trip, meaning taking the train alone. Last minute adjustments like that make me even more nervous, because they are nor planned ahead. But that's a good lesson in adjustment, I guess.
It also showed that I am not used to packing before travelling. It took me all morning, just to get my stuff together!! And now I am looking at a duffel bag, weighing 17,5kg. Simply because a lot of outdoorgear had to be taken. 5 days in Finland and its woods, without playing with toys? No way...

As usual before such an endeavour I have tons of things to do, before leaving. Gathering wood, doing homesteadstuff, putting up the village's christmastree, all sorts of other things.... I even get the urge to start cleaning the house!
I sometimes wonder why I do that. To get away from the travelstress? It only adds to it!!

And just before I went away I managed to transport a large amount of extra firewood here. I guess up to 5m3. That comes from a large amount of potato crates, which had served their purpose (or outlived their usefulness), so I could come, take them apart and transport them here. Now that taking apart-part was easier said than done. They had been nailed together and needed to handle between 500-600kg of potatoes each and stand the regular abuse during transportation. That means some serious nails were being used, both in length as in numbers. We will need to scrape many a kilo from the ashtray before it is all gone. And there is a large pile of otherwise still useable planks there too.

There is an afterburner;
lately I have been slacking on my low-carb-way of eating, with the trip to Tallinn, my daughter's 13th birthday, my craving for chocolate (love that stuff, especially with hazelnuts!!) and me being sick, trying to replace lost energy. So a good deal of grains, sugars and snacks were on the menu once more.
That had an almost immediate effect! Some of the physical problems I had before and lost when changing diet, reemerged. Once again it was shown that the body, my body does not react well to that kind of ingredients. So I am once more tightening the grip on those. I simply should not consume any of those at a daily basis. Despite the fact that certain ladies in the house, actually all three of them, liked me better with a potbelly...

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

And the learning continues....

I should've mentioned the hunting course of course.
Until now we have had a tonne of theory, but we also had the chance to meet a tracking hunter and his dogs. He talked about his works and showed us and we could shoot any question we had at him. This way of learning works great for me! This week we have visited a hunting store, looking at guns and ammunition. We also visited the gunvault and were allowed to try and handle the rifles therein. I found my match; a Tikka T3 Battue 308. Felt exactly right! It is a short rifle, not heavy, but with enough punch. Turns out to be not all that expensive either.

I also tried a Winchester (y'know the western version with the reloading handle underneath) and more than a dozen others, including some shotguns. Man, those felt big and unwieldy!
And speaking of hunting; I had a nice encounter and an eyeopener while having a long walk with Rex.
I had a little contact with someone knowledgeable regarding sleddogs and her advice made me look at Rex differently. She told me that Alaskan huskies are not just sleddogs, but they retain a pretty high level of huntinginstinct. I started noticing things.... Things that might prove useful in the future. He loves to use his nose, even more then his legs! I tried some running with him, but when he picks up a scent he just diverts in a 90 degree angle in the direction of the smell. That might be an issue when pulling a sled at speed... Maybe not the best qualifications for a leaddog. A good second probably. But he might just become a good trackingdog. Which probably requires a lot less high energy effort and commitment, but which yields an equally high output in exercise, cooperation and physical results.
The encounter I mentioned was one involving wildlife, a moose to be precise. We were out walking for the first time with the long leash again and I kept an eye on my boy as he was sniffing around as he usually does. Suddenly his nose went up in the air and he cocked his ears. He swiftly moved to the side of the road, low profile and went up the bank. There he froze and I did at the other end of the line, some 4 meters in between us with 4 meters of leash to spare. We stood and listened.... There was something moving through the forest. I heard the snapping of twigs and the muffled thumping of paws... hooves... And that came nearer quickly. Suddenly a small/young moosecow emerged from between the trees and she came right at us, up to within 20 meters. Rex did not make a sound or moved. But I was standing out in the open on the road. The cow saw me, slowed down and started turning, all the while eyeing me. She turned her left flank at me and slowly turned until Rex barked... Only once and she was off! If I had had a rifle I could have taken a perfect shot; 90 degree angle on her flank, short range, no obstacles...
What was the most amazing was Rex. He did not get mad or went ballistic. He did not bark, run or pull... He was remarkably quiet, alert and focussed.... After that his nose was glued to the ground and I started paying even more attention to what he was sniffing..... And I found more tracks, fresh ones. Places where the moose had crossed the road previously. I could see where she had lept over the ditch, landed on the road, crossed it and followed the ditch on the other side. I also found fresh deer tracks. Out in the adjacent fields we found fresh droppings and I let Rex roam free at the end of the long leash. By observing his movements I could retrace where the moose must've passed. Very exciting!!
A while before this episode we had met a hunter on the road in. I recognised him from last years hunt and we chatted a little. I knew he must have had his dog with him, so I asked him. Yup, the dog was other there somewhere alright.
And indeed, after the moose encounter we saw the hunter's dog move between the trees. I was a little anxious, knowing Rex' usual reaction towards strange dogs, but this one was not in the least interested in Rex. And Rex, again, barked once and was quiet again and set out to start tracking and sniffing again. No sign of bad behaviour at all.....
I was most pleased and also quite surprised when we came home. I already asked one of the local hunters for some moose hide and legs if or when they shoot their last moose this season.

The rest of the week will be focussed on homesteading; canning and drying to be more specific and hopefully some gardening too, just before winter sets in. And some firewood gathering too.

and of course there is our new family activity:

It was real fun doing this together and our little one shot remarkably well the first time! Best of all actually....
And maybe it was because I had been swinging a hammer most of that day, but I did again experience quite a lot of discomfort in the right shoulder. Pulling the string with the right arm was a definite no-no, so it was just as well, and surprising, to find out I should be shooting with my left! My left eye appears to be dominant...
The second time went much better. Body rested and the result were much better. I managed to land the arrows in groups at the longer range. Not always centre, but close to each other. My shoulder took it rather well. A sort of growing pain kind of feeling, but a lot less than the first time. Maybe with training that will pass too. And the kids still love it, even more than after the first time!
It is not the only thing we as a family like doing together. The other thing is watching movies... Hardly outdoorsrelated, but we all enjoy spending time together that way, having a good time with some food and drinks. It is not that we mindlessly stare at the screen. There's a lot of smalltalk and goofing around involved too. And we spend time together, which in itself is a great thing. Those having teens know why.... They tend to live in a world of their own or even on their own.

And I did a give-away!
I joined a Swedish bushcraft group on facebook a while ago, called bushcraft Sverige and that one reached the 1000 member-marker recently. On a whim I decided to do a give-away. Well, not entirely on a whim. it is a good tradition on BCUSA to celebrate a memorable event by doing a give-away and that inspired me to do the same on this side of the ocean. I have so much stuff and I did receive a few things myself as gifts I felt the need to give something in return. So one of the framed backpacks found a new and young (13) owner, whom I have never met or know, but who lives in a city relatively near. It might encourage him to continue the hobby and deepen his knowledge and understanding or at least enable him to enjoy the beauty of Swedish nature and maybe one day inspire and encourage others himself to do so too.

An old, but very useable Haglöfs framed backpack, an older Dutch army poncho, some horseshoefungus, a Czech army panset with burner w/ adjustable lid, a beanie, a deerantler, a Dutch army webbingbelt + 2 former East german grenadepouches, on old Mora Clasic in need of some TLC, a sittingpad, Danish flint, a folding mug and an emergency blanket.
That should get him going....
Another member took care of the shippingcosts!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

one is never too old to learn

The other day I went to a lecture, given by a Dutch professor; Arjen Wals, about the role of higher education in our world today. I'd never been to any such thing or to a university for that matter, so had no idea what to expect. I went to the Högskola Dalarna. the university in Falun and took my seat on the benches of the library, feeling quite a bit out of place between all the students and, what I assume, staff members. Since it was an open lecture there might have been others from outside as well....

Titel: "There are no jobs on a dead Planet" – Rethinking the role of higher education in light of Systemic Global Dysfunction
Arjen E.J. Wals, professor in Transformative Learning for Socio-Ecological Sustainability at the  Wageningen university in the Netherlands and spokesperson for Social Learning for Sustainability within UNESCO.

More information about Arjen and his lecture "There are no jobs on a dead Planet" – Rethinking the role of higher education in light of Systemic Global Dysfunction

In times when teachers around the globe are held to account by the performance of their students in international comparisons such as the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which focus on literacy, numeracy, and science, it is a challenge for them to engage in something as ill defined as "sustainability." In times when many of us, including our students, spend many waking hours gazing at an electronic screen, it is a challenge to connect meaningfully with the complex issues of sustainability affecting our world. In times when schools are increasingly seen as the manufacturers of the "human capital" needed to serve the economy and as places where the seeds of consumerism can be planted at an early age, it is a challenge to reorient teaching and learning to counter this status quo.
These challenges become even more imposing when vested interest groups act to maintain hegemonic unsustainable practices for their own benefit at the expense of the Earth as a whole. How should higher education - supposedly the place where some of the smartest people on the Planet gather - respond?
In my talk I will focus on a number of critical factors that can enable of higher education to re-orient itself, towards human development with people and Planet in mind.

I had the chance to talk to him personally a little afterwards and he gave me some links for additional information. He also has his own blog, called Transformative learning if anyone is interested in his ideas and what he does. I recommend it if you have an interest in the educational systems.
Here's a dropbox-link from my dropbox with the files he shared.

What did I take away from this? 
Well, most of what he said, I already knew. Roughly 90%. What I did not know, was strictly related to the field of education. There was also the aspect of time. Arjen feels that it is time to totally overhaul our current educational systems and I wholeheartedly agree. I only fear that we do not have the time for that anymore. There is no more time to redo such an institution as modern education.
For me personally it was a confirmation that I am not alone in this. That I do not see things to dark or to negatively. There really is something fundamentally wrong with our systems today and hearing someone like Arjen speak about it, makes it clear that there are many people everywhere and on every level worrying about and working on it. That means there is a vast potential at work here, despite politicians and corporations trying to manipulate and control us to think and do otherwise.
He also mentioned something I hadn't heard before; the ecological handprint.
He travels a lot and thus has a huge ecological footprint, but as he sees it, he hopes that he can balance that by reaching out to people, spreading his word and making a difference that way. His ecological handprint. I really liked that one!

Why is this so important? 
Why was this lecture so important to me? 
Simple, my kids are becoming teens. It is they who will be subjected to those higher educational systems soon; college, university... It is they who walk away from there and who will in their turn change the world and hopefully for the better. better then we did and certainly better than the generations before us!

And on that note I can proudly announce that the learning doesn't stop there for us! Both the mrs. and I found jobs. She as a substitute teacher at the local kindergarten and elementary school and I as a substitute mentor/guide for refugee teenagers that are alone.
This means for the both of us working in completely new fields. It will certainly broaden our horizons.

What has this all got to do with woodsmanship??
Nothing!! But it hopefully will make us better and wiser people.
As far as the woodsman-thing is concerned..... I have book a trip to Finland and I am going to meet the weekend woodsman and Finnman.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

How much fun is that??

Well, there I am; sitting at home.... sick.....
The day after we finished the harvest I developed a pretty fierce cold, which turned into an inflammation of the sinuses.
Guess I needed a break, huh....

Books, hot tea and ehhhmm.... cough syrup. Yeah, cough syrup.
That did give me time to do something I enjoy doing; digging through books!
I really love the online reservation possibility our local libraries provide. A matter of putting out a reservation on the books you want and collect them once they are set aside for you. So I have a couple of stacks of books at home right now. Some on gardening and older vegetable species, some on dogs and sledding and some to just read. Lars Wilderäng's Stjärnfall and Stjärnklart. Interesting only for Swedish readers, since it is a Swedish author, written in Swedish and the stories are situated in Sweden.
For those interested, here's a Swedish review of the book Stjärnfall on the Y'know, the ones that did the olja för blåbär book that I reviewed here.
It describes what might happen in Swedish society, when for example electricity and/or electronic gadgets, like computers and such, stop working. Not a pretty picture, but the books are quite thrilling, if somewhat clinic in places. But that might also be, because of the language barrier.

Since the dog still needs to go out, so do I and some rounds of fresh air do work wonders, even if I'd rather coop up and huddle under a blanket. On the other hand we did get him his own backpack, so we have begun training with that one. Only with a voluminous, yet light load, so that he gets used to it, before we start loading it.
I must say I was kind of surprised to see him getting accustomed to it so fast! It was strange at first, but very soon afterward he just walked around as if he had done so for ever. It only still is a bit odd, when he decides to make his way through the undergrowth.

Other than that there isn't much to tell... Only a bunch of autumn scenes....

Oh yeah....
In the meantime I redid my mancave.... again. New paint, new floor....
Is it a bad thing to admit that I actually have a "wardrobe" for my framed backpacks?? I have 7 now, after selling my M39, but getting an old Bergen.... for free. I have become a collector... a hoarder! Ahhh, the shame!! Can't help, just like'm.... a lot... But the herd will get culled. 2 have already new destinations, 1 is my daughter's and 2 are those ancient, derelicted ones I still have not fixed.... or have any idea on how to. Just can't get myself to throw them in the dumpster,
But I already am liking the fit of that Bergen much better than the Haglöfs'.

See.... my own backpackwardrobe.... with a well lit workingarea to the left and a bookcase to the front right, which you can't see as it is behind a wall.

The Bergen; it is old, a mustard coloured, course canvas with leather straps. A webbingbelt instead of a leather one on the lower back. Three large pockets on the outside, a pocket on the inside and..... a small pocket on the left side! A small flap gives access to a horizontal pocket across the back. Never seen anything like it!
Plus a couple of eyelets which can hold leather straps, for a sleepingmat for instance.


Man, I need to get out more......

Speaking of which..... if that illness wasn't holding me back, moose huntingseason is. The hunting parties are right around here in the forests and they do not take well to any disturbances. Usually I would not care too much about that, but given the fact that I'd like to join 'm next year, I do not want to create a lot of fuzz or step on long, sensitive toes.
And if the bullets aren't flying thick (we heard the rifle shots) deerkeds are. Man, they are out in force this year!! When we were in the woods with Rex, he discovered a night lair and we got covered in keds in no time flat. Happens everytime we go out in the woods. Disgusting and unpleasant critters.