Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da…

I don’t often talk about personal issues here at the blog, but I feel compelled to share a little information about why it has been relatively quiet here for so long. Almost a year ago now, my wife and I separated. That separation will be finalized this year. I don’t want to go into too much detail, though I will say that the cause wasn’t anything heavy like substance abuse, infidelity or anything like that. It essentially came down to us being two very different people who seemed to be on different paths in life. I will say that the thing that probably hurt me most was the breakup of our family, which I thought was very unfair to the Woodsboy and his emotional future, especially since we had always had such a happy and healthy home life. However, when two people don’t share the same general set of moral and ethical values about what is most important in life, eventually there will be problems. Our separation and divorce were very surprising to many people, including our relatives, co-workers etc., many of whom didn’t understand it (and I have to admit I still don’t understand it 100%).

In the grand scheme of things, though, this doesn’t matter. The fact is that life is going to give you what it gives you, whether you want it or not. There will be injuries. There will be job losses. There will be separations. These things are absolutely inevitable. The only thing we have control over is how we respond to the things that happen to us. You can either get angry and upset, which makes things worse, or you can turn the other cheek and transform it into something positive. You could say life had given me a truck-load of lemons last year. Fortunately for me, I like lemonade. 🙂

So life does, and has been, going on. I took a break from bushcraft, camping etc. for a while, instead focusing on my growth and development as a person, spending lots of fantastic quality time with the Woodsboy, forging new friendships and working on projects at the homestead. Speaking of the homestead, the contractor I hired to restore the cabin says the work should be complete by the end of May. This will be a significant development, not only for me, but for the blog as well. Once the structural restoration is complete and I have set up the interior (and get electricity, a water pump etc.), I will actually be able to live and work there for up to a week at a time thanks to the mobile nature of my job. This means instant access to the woods and the ability to work on homestead/gardening/cabin projects anytime I’m there, something that I have never had since starting this blog!

So thank you for being patient! You can expect the frequency of posts to pick up here over the next few weeks and months (starting with a trip report on an overnighter I took late last month). I will finish this post with advice to any of you who may be going through hard times right now: Stand firm. Be resolute. No obstruction, no hindrance, no injury or setback is so severe that you cannot get past it with God’s help. Life may not be the same afterwards, but you will be stronger for having gone through it. Time does heal all wounds, especially when you help it along by having a positive mindset.

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New big knife from Finland: the Skrama

While perusing the website of Finnish outdoor and military surplus shop Varusteleka, I spotted a new knife of their own design which is now available: the “Skrama”. It looked interesting to me, so I decided to share it with you here. For the record, I don’t work for the company or anything like that, and this blog post was completely unsolicited. I’m just a satisfied customer who orders from them from time to time.

The Skrama:

Image linked from Varusteleka website

Somewhat reminiscent of the Taiter hukari, but much more refined, this new knife is a modern take on the seax or scramasax of the Middle Ages. It looks to be part axe, part knife and part machete and is billed as a multi-purpose bush tool. I’m not necessarily a big-knife freak, but this one appeals to me for some reason. Having some experience with big knives, it looks to me like it would work well based on the design and specs:

  • Blade dimensions: 24 cm (9.5″) long, 4 mm (0.16″) thick
  • Blade material: 80CrV2 carbon steel
  • Handle material: textured molded rubber over long full tang
  • Weight: 525 g (18.5 oz.)
  • Sheath: simple plastic blade cover (they say a leather belt sheath is in the works)
  • Current price: 65 Euro (about $85)

More info can be found here.

Image linked from Varusteleka website

I’ll be leaving for Lapland in two days and won’t be able to update the blog while I’m gone. Stay tuned!

New gear for 2013 Lapland trip

In just under two weeks, I’ll be riding the rails up to northern Finnish Lapland, where I will meet up with blacksmith and wilderness guide Pasi Hurttila for a one-week bushcrafting, backpacking, fishing and hunting trip to Lemmenjoki National Park. If you are a fan of Lars Monsen, you might remember that he visited Lemmenjoki in one of his “Nordkalotten” show episodes. Being 2,860 km² (1,100 mi²) in size makes it the largest national park in Finland and one of the largest in Europe. To the northwest of the park lies Øvre Anárjohka National Park in Norway.

Over the past few weeks, I have been spending a little time here and there preparing for the upcoming trip. I’ve been filling a few small gaps in my gear list to make sure the trip will be a successful and dry one (the weather can be sunny, rainy, snowy or all of the above at this time of year…) so I thought I’d show you the new items I’ve picked up for the trip. When I return, I’ll write a separate post with a full list of all the gear I brought with me.

New items for upcoming trip to Lemmenjoki National Park.

Starting from the top and moving clockwise:

  • Swedish army LK-70 rucksack previewed here. This 70-liter pack has more than enough room for the gear I’ll be bringing. It’s an old pack, but it’s comfortable and rugged.
  • Although the Swedish army boots I’ve been using for a few years were serving me well, I had to retire them due to an unintentional incident involving the Woodsboy which rendered them unusable (more on that another time…). I bought a pair of Alpina Vento MID hiking boots and so far have spent about 2.5 hours breaking them in. They’re starting to soften up now, and I will continue working on them over the next two weeks so they’re ready for the trip.
  • Even though I’m going to waterproof the canvas pack ahead of the trip, I went ahead and bought a Tatonka rain cover for it. It’s very compact and lightweight and will come in handy if we get caught in any downpours.
  • The “white and green rectangle” is a topographic map of Lemmenjoki Park which Pasi was nice enough to send me. We spent some time this evening going over the places we’d like to visit and our general off-trail route through the park, as well as other aspects of the trip. Pasi seems like a really nice and knowledgeable guy!
  • Next up is an Ortlieb map case for said map.
  • It was time to buy a new compass (the old one had a large bubble in the fluid-filled chamber), so I picked up the Brunton model O.S.S. 30B compass. It seems like a solid compass and a quality piece of gear.
  • The orange roll is a self-inflating sleeping pad made by the Finnish company Retki. The foam pads I had been using for the past few years have seen much better days, and it was time to replace them.
  • After years of rolling my Swiss army sleeping bag up in my bivy bag and taking up too much room in/on my pack with it, I finally bought a dry sack from Sea to Summit to keep it in. It’s much more compact and protected from the elements now.
  • Last, but not least, in the center of the picture, is NIKWAX Cotton Proof canvas waterproofing agent. I’ll use this to treat the LK-70 pack, as well as my cotton pants.

Well, that’s about it. These items should complement my existing gear nicely and provide me with extra comfort, security and protection from the elements. With these purchases, I should now be all set for my upcoming trip!

Cabin restoration project – Introduction

Earlier this year, I made mention of an old homestead in the Woodsbabe’s family which we were hoping to be able to use for things like gardening, canning/smoking/preserving food, cooking/heating with wood, working on projects and also for camping, fishing, bushcraft etc. Then in June, my hopes were dashed when, upon visiting it, the 120-year-old house seemed to be in unusable shape. Fortunately, some recent findings have put the possibility of using the place firmly back on the table. But I’ll get to that later on. First, I’ll give you a little info and a quick tour of the place.

The old homestead is located on a dirt road in a rural area in Eastern Finland where the population density is very low. It was a working farm for many years, but hasn’t been inhabited year-round for 40+ years (though there is a small sauna building there which has been used sporadically since then). There are roughly 12.5 acres (5 hectares) of woods, 5 acres (2 hectares) of old fields and a little more than an acre (0.5 hectares) for the buildings, yard and garden. The house was heated by several wood stoves and has one large living room/kitchen and four smaller rooms. There’s a barn/storage building with old tools, horse tack, fishing nets and lots of other interesting stuff. The last time we were there, the Woodsbabe took some pictures.

The old barn/storage building:

And a few pictures of the main room inside. Unfortunately, this really cool stone fireplace will have to go:

Old-timey picture of some of the house’s past occupants:

The good news I mentioned earlier is that the house isn’t as dilapidated as we all thought. Well, one side of it is, the side with the living room/kitchen. This side is not usable as-is. But removing some of the paneling from the walls on the side of the house with the smaller rooms showed that the logs of that part are in great condition and still very usable. The floors are iffy, but the walls, windows and even the roof (replaced in the 1940s) are in comparatively great shape. This being the case, the owner has decided to restore this part of the house as a rustic cabin with exposed log walls, and we have volunteered to help get the place into shape. In exchange, we’ll be able to use the cabin, yard etc. for recreation. 🙂

So over the coming months, I will be periodically reporting back to you with pictures of the restoration as it progresses, and I’ll also show you some of the old tools and other equipment of this old farm. Then when the place is fully usable, which will probably be next spring, I’ll show you how we spend our time there!

We’re back, baby!

I am happy to report that the Woodsfamily has arrived at our new home in eastern Finland! Actually, we’ve been here almost a week now, but haven’t had Internet access (other than via phone) until today. Most of the major work involved with moving and setting up is behind us, so we can start turning our attention toward enjoying life in our new area, which also happens to be our old area. What I mean by this is that we have returned to the incredible maze of water, land and islands of the lake district of central/eastern Finland where we lived before our short stint in the Helsinki region.

Here’s a shot which I think is pretty indicative of this largely coniferous sub-arctic lake region:

Finland lake district – Summer 2012

What’s interesting is that, in relocating several hundred kilometers/miles to the north, we’ve gone “back in time” in terms of the progression of the seasons. It’s colder here, there’s still some snow lying around and there are fewer signs of spring in comparison to the warmer southern coast. So we are now “reliving” several weeks of late winter/early spring as the winter recedes to the north.

It’s a perfect time to dust off my spring and summer gear and start thinking about the things I’d like to do this warm season. I’ve got a long backlog of ideas for crafts, projects, bush cooking, fishing, woods exploration, gear testing and so much more. I’ve also been planning the Woodsboy’s first overnight camping trip, a week-long backpacking trip with the Woodsbabe and a much-anticipated wilderness outing with a fellow blogger from abroad, so be sure to stick around! 🙂

A big burl and big news!

Last weekend I was walking around a residential area and saw a burl growing on a birch tree.

As you can see, this burl wraps a good deal of the way around the trunk.

Just so you can get an idea of how big this sucker is:

I bet this monster burl could be made into something great!

And just for the heck of it, a shot I snapped at a lake a little while later.

Now for the big news. As long-time readers will know, the Woodsfamily moved from eastern Finland to the Helsinki metropolitan area last summer due to a great job opportunity presented to the Woodsbabe. Since we moved here, I have been able to explore new natural areas, including Nuuksio National Park and the southern Finnish coast, as well as spend time with friends who live in or near this area, like Scandic Woodsman and OZme. I have also enjoyed meeting and spending time with new friends. While these experiences have been great, I have really missed spending time in the peaceful setting of the country as I often did before. Plus, not having access to private land the way I did in eastern Finland severely restricted the type of activities I have been able to do and then show you here at the blog. As a result, the content of most of my “in the field” posts has reflected the change in circumstances.

Well, times they are a changin’! Now that the Woodsbabe has completed the training phase for her line of work, she is somewhat of a hot commodity in her field, and I am happy to report that she has just accepted a job back in eastern Finland! So in about a month, we will be moving to a smaller city not too far away from where we used to live and also not far from my favorite campsite and many, many acres/hectares of private land which I have access to through family. Although I will miss the more frequent visits with my friends here in the south, after we move I will be able to pick up where I left off last spring with a much greater breadth and depth of things I will be able to do and show you. I’ll be able to put the blog back on it’s original course!

But that’s not all! I am also working on arrangements for the Woodsfamily to have regular access to a relative’s small house/cabin in the country which is not lived in year round. If it all works out, we should be able to go there in our spare time and do things like country cooking on a wood-fired cooking range, canning/smoking/preserving food, making projects in the workshop, low-maintenance gardening (potatoes, carrots etc.) and lots more.

Things might continue to be a bit slow here at the blog for a short spell, but that’ll change once our new move is complete. Of course from time to time I’ll still visit my friends in the south for meetups and such after we move, and as always, they are welcome to visit us!

Thanks for reading!

We have a winner!

First off, let me say thank you to everyone who submitted an entry to the knife giveaway. Secondly, I’d like to mention that if/when I do another giveaway, I won’t do the “pick a number” thing again. 😉 Next time, I’ll make it easier on you and me by just picking a name out of a hat, using the comment number as your number or something like that.

Anyhoo, let’s get on to the good stuff, the giveaway winner! I used http://www.random.org to generate a number between 1 and 100 this evening, and the number it generated was 48. So the winner is Merize, who chose 47! Congrats, Merize! I’ll be contacting you by email shortly.

Thanks again to everyone for reading and commenting! 🙂