Thursday, December 22, 2016

Changing careers.

Apparently it is quite common for people these days to have more than one career. With this information I decided that it is time for a change. Up until now I have been a scientist and yesterday was my last day. This is a exciting career that I would highly recommend. I really enjoyed it.

However, from now on a whole new set of challenges awaits as I will try to grow a small business into a stable sustainable source of income. I will be making and selling designer wooden objects and hope most of this will be via commission. I started a small store on Etsy where some of the products are available - have a look here (some example items below):

Thus a new phase begins, also let me know if you are interested in something.


 p.s. Both Carina and I became Swedish citzens recently - Hurrah, hurrah, hurrah, hurrah.

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Camouflage not required.

How is the hunting of a black cat affected when the whole world is covered by white snow? See the video below for the answer:

Kwagga lost her prey for a only few minutes. There are more footage of the hunt which I can upload for those morbidly curious. The outcome is however predictable and there is now a partly frozen half eaten rodent body in the snow somewhere.


Some snow in November

We had some snow early in November and the change from summer to winter seems very sudden. It almost feels like these two photos were taken within one week.

Hope the winter stay this nice.


Thursday, August 4, 2016


One of the problems with living in Sweden is the proximity to the North Pole. This cause the winters to be long and cold and which in turns makes growing plants a bit tricky. To help extend the growing season a bit we decided to build a greenhouse. It will definitely help at the end of the season - we had many almost ripe tomatoes at the end of last summer that needed only a few more days, but the frost got too them and we lost a large part of the harvest. Carina is also quite eager to start planting seeds in the greenhouse and replanting the more mature plans - at the beginning of the growth season. Lastly, there have been a few losses due to the wildlife, that may be prevented to some extend.
The greenhouse we built.

Our house came with a old smithy from the 1600's on which a garage was build (probably around the 1950's). Onto this a chicken coop was build (between 2010 and 2015). We decided convert the chicken coop into the greenhouse.
The chicken coop.

I thought that the main work would be to cover the structure in glass or hard plastic. However, during a visit by Carina's parents her Dad mentioned that we should use soft greenhouse plastic. We went online and found that this is an excellent option. We could order it online (here) and it was not too expensive for enough to cover the whole structure (although we calculated wrong and had to order more a second time ).

The main work thus became clearing out the trees and stumps that were in the chicken coop and building a floor. Unfortunately we did not take any photos of how it looked before we removed the plants from the coop. I can however mention that we had to start by using a bow saw to remove the newly sprouted shoots from the stump and the rest from the roof. Then we needed to cut away a few wires from the roof to remove the bit that grew into the wire-mesh. This was followed by taking the weed-eater with a blade attachment into the space to remove the rest of the undergrowth. Carina spent several hours after that removing the rest of the plant material and leveling the floor a bit. We were left with a floor sloping up to the garage and only 4 big stumps. To prevent the weeds from sprouting immediately we poured some salt onto the floor.
The floor - level-ish and most of the plant material removed.
Adding some salt.

We drove through our town one day looking for pallets. We found a few as well as several packing crates that we took home. I spent one afternoon sawing the boards from the packing crates.
Pallets found in town.

Crates sawed into boards..

We placed the pallets on the floor trying for a reasonably level surface.
The floor in making

We used the boards from the packing crates as floorboards. Everything was nailed together and the floor turned out reasonably well.
Flooring done.
A chicken coop with a wooden floor.

The next step was to add the plastic covering. We started with the roof since it was the most awkward shaped and the largest section (note we overlapped all the pieces from the top downwards - thus even starting with the roof the wall sections are tucked in under the overhanging bits and water should not flow inwards). Another problem was that we were not able to reach the garage wall at the top of the roof - the reason being that we decided to leave the wire mesh in place. A ladder could not be placed on the inside and the mesh and roof in general is not strong enough to carry my weight. We therefore stapled the one section of the plastic to a wooden beam that we attached to the wall (we could at least reach the sides of the beam while standing on ladders).
Cutting the sheet of plastic - for the roof. 

To ensure that the plastic did not rip on the wire mesh we covered all the edges with silver tape. Once the roof was dragged into place we added a few staples all round to keep it there while cutting the next sections.
All the sharp edges covered in silver tape.

Seems like it fits!

The rest of the covering was quite easy. We just needed to cut the piece to size, fold it under the previous section and staple it to the wood.

We covered the stapled sections with clear packing tape to help reduce the stress on the plastic and seal the overlapping sections.
Covering the front - the excess was removed after stapled to the bottom.

Covering the sides. 

We decided to add a window. I added a wooden beam where the bottom plastic section needed to attach. The top section was only stapled on top part and a wooden broom handle was stapled to the bottom. The sheet can be rolled up to open the window and is kept open/closed by small hooks. I added some overlapping plastic for the window sheet to fold into on the sides which makes it seal quite nicely.
Working on the window panel.
Double seal when window is closed.

Rolled up. - open window-
The final piece to cover was the door.

The last step in this project was to move all the plants. We have a lot of tomatoes a few chilies and miscellaneous other plants.
Carina and Donkie moving plants into the greenhouse.
More plants.

I hope that the greenhouse works well. There are a few things that may make it a bit sub-optimal. For example it faces east. This means that it gets a lot of sun in the morning and nothing at all in the afternoon. Ideally I would have liked it to face south if it could not be freestanding - but this is the structure that we had... I also hope that the wood used for the flooring does not decay too easily in the warm humid environment. This is something that we will deal with if it becomes a problem. Lastly, I am slightly worried about snow on the roof in the winter. The wire-mesh will support the plastic sheeting but I think we may need to remove some snow if it becomes to heavy for the whole structure.

Other than that I am happy. More important, Carina is happy. Now we can look forward to more produce from our own backyard.

Current view inside - next season it may be too small...


Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Kwagga and the Snake

There is only one poisonous snake in Sweden. It is the common European viper (Vipera berus) and it is not really very poisonous. It is quite wide spread through Sweden and there are approximately 1300 reported bites (on humans) per year. There is however almost no human fatalities from this snake and we can consider Sweden a safe country with regards to snake human interactions.
European viper

Our cat Kwagga is a very active hunter. She is also known to live dangerously and "died" in December only to return 2 weeks later starved and close to being really dead (read the tale here). We were not surprised to find her with a non-poisonous grass-snake  (Natrix natrix) a while ago. We tried to discourage her to catch snakes and took the snake away from her (releasing it into the fields while keeping her indoors for a while).
Grass snake in our garden.

This did not work.

On a Saturday (when the vet is closed), she went out hunting and came back mid morning. Carina saw that she was sitting a bit strange and on closer inspection Kwagga informed us, with unhappy growling, that she was not feeling well. At this stage we did not know what was wrong but after approximately 30 minutes it was clear from her swollen foot that something bit her on the leg. We phoned the vet (the emergency vet), and after describing all the symptoms she told us that it is likely that it was a snake and that we should bring Kwagga for some treatment.

The main treatment for cats is fluid and Kwagga got a drip to increase her fluid intake and painkillers. Some tests for liver and kidney damage were performed and everything seemed to be fine (follow-up tests will be done in a few weeks).
Kwagga resting after treatment

After  a few days kept indoors Kwagga seemed fully recovered and are out and about again searching for the next adrenaline rush - a patch of missing fur, where the blood was drawn, the only reminder of her adventure with a snake.
Right foot - shaved patch for drawing blood, left foot - completely healed after snakebite. 

Moving the garden indoors.

Carina has been working hard to grow a few consumables during the short Swedish summer. Here she is in action tending to the herbs and vegetables.
Carina in the garden!

At the same time we have been working on converting the chicken coop built onto the garage (by the previous owners) into a greenhouse. This whole event will be documented in a future post.
Chicken coop being turrned into greenhouse.


Monday, April 4, 2016

An encounter with an elephant.

One time long ago I was sampling figs in the Kruger National Park with Christoff. This was hard work since we needed to carry the equipment to sample, which included several very long poles with pruning shears attached to the end. Additionally we also had to carry all the collected material back to the car - each bag of samples weighing several kilograms. This was all done in the sun, walking over rough terrain and wearing long trousers to limit the likelihood of gathering ticks. In essence heat was one of the main factors affecting the experience.

Our strategy consisted of driving on the park roads while checking the GPS*  and the map where the trees are located until we were as close to the sample tree as the road would allow (*note that we used an old-school GPS that only displayed the coordinates and we needed use a paper-map to orientate ourselves). This is where we parked the car, took all the relevant equipment and continued on foot. We also had a armed park ranger who accompanied us on these extravehicular activities. Since the trees of intrest often grow next to rivers we would sample several in one go if they were located reasonably close to each other by following the river or river bed, rather than returning to the car every time.

On ons such an occasion we sampled 5 or 6 trees and had quite a number of bags of figs with the accompanying sticky fig tree latex everywhere, scratches from the falling branches, our entourage insects and the ever present sampling poles when the guard suddenly told us to stop. We were at that time busy sampling the last tree that was also the closest to the car before we would drive on. The reason - a curious elephant was approaching us. All our stuff were strewn around the tree we were sampling, all the sampling poles fully extended and all the maps and collection papers ready to be annotated when this happened. We were to drop everything immediately and move away slowly, preferably downwind from the elephant and if possible also out of sight. We did as instructed and left several hours of work while following the park ranger.

The elephant approached the tree and saw all the stuff. From a distance we saw the elephant. Our fear at this stage was not that the huge beast will see us and try to trample us to death but rather that he/she would destroy some or all of the day's samples and the equipment. Luckily for us this did not happen. After a short while, cautiously walking around the tree, and not-stepping on any of our things or samples, the elephant moved on and disappeared into the bushes several meters away. We waited a while and the guard led us back to the sampling site. We continued, keeping a ear out for any sound but nothing strange happened.

This is one exciting event that happened a lifetime ago while doing field work. Since then life has changed quite a lot. I did, however, recently sprint back home and stumble over the steps next to the house when I thought I heard a beast rapidly approaching from the bushes next to our garden but this turned out to be something different altogether...


Saturday, February 6, 2016

Kameel - our new cat.

This blog seems to be turning into a thorough description of the antics of our cats. Since it is suppose to reflect our adventures in Sweden, it should be clear that what we have mostly done during the last 2 months were cat related (also worked a bit on wooden items, now exclusively posted here). However, once it becomes a bit warmer we will possibly spend less time indoors like hibernating bears and have more to write about.

With that said, I introduce the newest cat in our collection (I recently discovered the word for a group of cats is a clowder): Kameel
Kameel, our new cat

We got Kameel a week after Kwagga went missing (read here if you need an update). Donkie was quite depressed (as were we). He did not go out for long and stopped playing with us after 2 days. He just slept or walked aimlessly through the house.  We thought that, in time, we would get another cat and started to look at advertisements for new kittens and cat shelter websites. The idea was that we would spend a month or so looking for a cat and see in the meantime if any is available, not thinking we would get one too soon (the last time we looked for cats for almost 8 months before we got Donkie and Kwagga). We were in no rush and we did not think that there would be many people actively advertising during this season (there is an active decline of advertisements around the Christmas season - the reason: most people do not want their kittens bought and given as Christmas gifts).

Then very suddenly we got Kameel. On Sunday night after Christmas, I saw some kittens on the adoption website Livbojen and sent an email to merely inquire about the procedure. I got an answer in less than 30 minutes and after a few more emails we have arranged to get a kitten the following day.
Image of the available kittens sent by Livbojen

In less than 12 hours we started a 400 km round trip to get a kitten aged 12 weeks. She was one of a litter of 4 kittens, by a female too young to have offspring. The four were found on a farm and placed in a home where people help raise orphaned kittens. At 12 weeks they are advertised for adoption. At this stage they have had all their vaccinations. We signed the agreement that has several clauses to ensure the owners take care of their cats (this is not done when purchasing a cat from a private person). We got the kitten into the cat transportation cage and were on our way back.
Kameel's first experience of our home

From the beginning Kameel was more vocal than our other cats. She was also quite bold. Once home, we were worried about the interaction that she and Donkie would have. It turned out that Donkie seemed more afraid of this new weird animal than she was of him but soon he got used to her and started to cautiously play with her. Within 2 days they were good friends and running through the house chasing each other. Things seemed to become better.
Kameel and Donkie

Kameel and Donkie - again sleeping

A few nights later we heard a strange meowing in the washing room. Kwagga was back. She was gone for a total of 11 days, we think she was locked in somewhere. She clearly had not eaten for the whole time and lost more than half her body weight. When I picked her up I could feel only ribs and spine. Here eyes were foggy and her voice was hoarse and faint. We fed her and she went to sleep. For the next few days she did not move much, except to eat. When she walked somewhere it seemed extremely laborious and she was very stiff. We of course took her to the vet and they gave us some advice on what to do to get her better. There was thus not much interaction between Kameel and Kwagga for a few days. Slowly Kwagga got better, but she did not like the new small animal running around. For a week Kwagga merely hissed at Kameel. However, Kameel being bold, kept on going to Kwagga and after a while Kwagga gave up hissing and started to play with her. Currently all three cats get along very well and both Kwagga and Kameel spend a lot of time in the shop with me (cats in the shop).
Kameel and Kwagga together.

Things are now more normal again (given that we have 3 cats now). Kwagga and Donkie go out during the day as before but we will wait a few months (until it is a bit warmer) before we let Kameel roam the country side (she is still quite small and also has much shorter hair than the others).
Donkie - current weather outside

Kameel at the computer - a bit in the way
Kameel in the documents - sometimes we find her there 
Food time!

We are happy to have them and they are very entertaining. We will however refrain from adding to our clowder for a while.