Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Scream

Nine days ago I posted a picture of the Heath Spotted Orchid which has a very typical pattern on it's petals. Didn't anybody notice? I did. It reminded me of Edvard Munch's Scream paintings and the Scream mask featured in the Scream horror movies. Or is my imagination running wild?

Nature must be one of the best sources of inspiration there is.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Nectar

Although blossoming time is almost over now, blooming time will continue until late fall. It has to, because otherwise the insects which feed on nectar would be out of fuel, sometime soon.

Here are some pictures...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Midsummer 2011

Midsummer is one of the most important holidays in Sweden. The celebration takes two days: Midsummer's Eve (which was yesterday) and Midsummer's day (which is today). The main parts of the celebration - like raising and dancing around the maypole - take place on Midsummer's Eve. On the pictures below you can see what that looks like in Gustavsfors, a tiny village nearby.


Does this look like the celebration of one of the most important holidays in Sweden? Decide for yourself but bear in mind that Gustavsfors is only a very small village in the Swedish countryside which by no means can be compared with a city or even a 'real' village.

We love small.

Can you imagine that we consider Gustavsfors a big city?

The pictures above are taken two years ago. Yesterday, we were planning to attend the celebrations in 'the big city', but the weather gods had decided to spoil the event. Half an hour before maypole-rising time, it started raining heavily and the copious precipitation lasted for more than two hours. We decided to take a rain check and are hoping for better weather next year.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lawn mowing day

Yesterday was lawn mowing day. Nothing special about that, because during the grass growing season - which is as long as the temperature of the ground is above 15 degrees Celsius - we have lawn mowing day at least once a week. We call it 'lawn' because otherwise nobody would understand, 'mowing' because that is what we would like to be doing and 'day' because the activity almost takes a whole working day.

Roughly half of our 'lawn' consists of a mixture of grass, moss and weeds and is plane enough to be kept into shape with a ride-on mower. This is the part of the job which we like most for it's relatively easy and done fast. The other half of our 'lawn' is something else though. It consists of uneven ground - with lots of big stones, rocks and stubs - which has to be cleared with a grass trimmer and brush cutter. And that's the part of the job which takes a lot of time and energy.

So why don't we just leave this part of the 'lawn' in peace?

The answer is bugs. Bugs like mosquitoes, black flies and the like thrive in long grass and brush and keeping the grass and brush short really helps keeping these nasty flying creatures away from the living area we have created around our house and barns. In the daytime, when the sun is heating up this area, that is. When the evening comes and the sun goes down behind the trees, the mosquitoes and black flies come out in full force. This time of year, they can't be stopped and chase you everywhere. There are so many of them, now, that even 'hundreds of millions' sounds like an amount to wish for. But that's another story.

Back to the subject of this post. Our 'lawn' measures around 7.000 square metres and that's why 'mowing' it takes such a long time.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Wild orchid - Heath Spotted Orchid

Now it's time for the orchids to bloom. All around us in the forest, with a preference for open and moist places, they pop up. On the picture below you can see Sweden's most common wild orchid: the Heath Spotted Orchid.

Heath Spotted Orchid - Dactylorhiza Maculata ssp maculata.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Rhubarb

We have harvested the first rhubarb of the year. Rhubarb is an easy to grow vegetable and, in our climate, the first food plant to be ready to harvest. Another advantage is that you can harvest two or three times a year. Normally, that is. We have old plants that aren't producing that good anymore, so only with lots of luck shall we be able to harvest a second time. That, however, doesn't spoil the taste of the rhubarb!


The end result: a tasty meal of moose meat balls, potatoes and fresh rhubarb.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Great Spotted Woodpecker - 2

Today, the parent woodpeckers have decided that it's time for their youngsters to leave the nesting hole. But they don't want to, at all. And why should they? Life in the nesting hole has been good to them. Warm, sheltered and with a constant supply of food. Well, the latter has changed, now. In order to force their offspring out of the nest, as of this morning, the parent woodpeckers have stopped the catering service. All they are doing, every now and then, is sitting in a nearby tree, calling for their kids. And waiting until hunger drives them out into the world.

Father woodpecker calling for his kids.

Which, for the moment, aren't coming out of the hole further than this.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Great Spotted Woodpecker

In the forest around our house, all kind of birds are brooding and raising their young. And of all these birds, which are making lots of noises, the woodpeckers are the loudest. Therefore, it wasn't difficult to locate the nesting hole of the Great Spotted Woodpecker that you can see in the video below. I just had to follow the sound of the young birds screaming for food. The parent birds are working hard. As long as it is light, which is almost 22 hours per day, they are flying to and fro to feed their offspring.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Enjoy every day

Today, I celebrate my eighth birthday. Counted in human years I'm roughly 65 years old, now, and my body shows all the signs of getting older. I have a grey snout, grey whiskers and patches of grey hair behind my ears. Beside that, I'm suffering from two chronic diseases. One of these is controlled with medication, the other I just have to live with. Last but not least, I have a serious problem with the elbow of my left front leg. It's stiff and hurting so badly that I have to take pain meds every day. And although the painkillers work properly, the long walks my humans and I used to make, have become much shorter recently.

Considering my physical condition, you might think that I'm ready for the old dogs home. But I'm absolutely not. I still have the spirit of a young dog. Every day, I invite my humans to play with me. I run off with a ball or a stick, making the most unexpected moves, showing no consideration at all for my age and limitations. And although this carelessness worries my humans, it has a good reason. If you let handicaps and limitations rule your life, you stop living. And in my opinion that is the worst you can do.

My main principle is that you have to enjoy every day of life. And nobody will ever be able to say that I didn't do just that. I'm sure many people could take example from me for that.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Sweet

Outside, an overwhelming sweet smell is hanging in the air. Not only is it blossoming time, but also the start of blooming time. And together, the blossoms and flowers produce an intense sweet scent, which almost makes you believe that you're inside a perfume or fabric softener - choose the one you like most - factory.

The delicious smell of the flowers tempts us to open all doors and windows in order to let it into the house, but we don't. You see, it so happens that the scent explosion comes together with an enormous increase of the insect population of which the greater part not only makes a humming or buzzing noise, but also bites or stings. And those bugs are better kept outside.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Nothing at all

We are normally quite busy doing chores, walking the dog, writing or just actively enjoying the outdoor life. 'After work', reading is a favourite pastime and, after that, there is almost never any time left. So there is always a lot to do and we never get bored.

A few days ago, Nicôle was away for a few hours and I was home alone. Well not entirely alone, but together with Jeanny. And though there were lots of useful things to do, I decided for something different.

We went out into the yard and lied down in the grass. All around us, I heard the chirping, tweeting and peeping of the countless birds in the trees. Then, after not having moved ourselves for a while, the birds flew back into the yard and started foraging in the grass around us. Some of them came very close. I could have touched them if I had wanted to.

Later, I decided to do as Jeanny and doze - one of her favourite pastimes - a little. I half closed my eyes and studied the moving of the white clouds against the blue sky. I cleared my mind, drifted away and felt as if I was one with the universe ...

Time went by. Nicôle came home and - don't get this wrong - the peace was gone. But when she asked me what I had been doing, all afternoon, there was not much to tell: nothing at all.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Thunderstorm season

The Swedish province where we live, is called Värmland. Translated to English, this means 'warm country', which - in my opinion - is an appropriate name. During the summer, if the sun has free play, the temperature can easily rise to 25 degrees Celsius. And that is the air temperature in the shadow. In direct sunlight, the mercury can reach 40 degrees or more. If it's cloudy and raining - which happens from time to time - it doesn't get that warm at all, 15 degrees at the most.

Because of the big differences in temperature, weather changes often come with tremendous thunderstorms, which we, in the six years that we have been living here, have learned to respect. Unlike in The Netherlands, it isn't possible to evade the lightning by just simply going indoors. Why not? In this part of Sweden, electricity and telephone are carried by overhead cables. Cables which, being of metal and hanging high in the air, not only attract lightning but bring it into your house, too. And if the lightning misses the aboveground cables, which it almost never does, there's always the chimney left. Believe me, it wasn't funny, the first time we saw St. Elmo's fire appear on our cast-iron wood stove. You can take my word for that.

Today, we survived the third major thunderstorm of the year. It went on for hours, but luckily, it passed a few kilometres west of our property. Just now, as I'm writing this post, it's safe again to be connected to the grid. But during the months to come, we have to be on our guard and disconnect all appliances - save the fridge - and the telephone, when we're leaving home. The thunderstorm season has started.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

I love water

I love water. No, that is an understatement. I'm crazy about water.

It doesn't matter what kind of water it is or where it's coming from. Water in a lake, a stream, a ditch, a - preferably muddy - pool or a bucket. Water from a tap, a garden hose, a fountain or a bottle. You name it, if it's water I'll go for it. And no, this is not about drinking the stuff which I, of course, regularly do. I have to, otherwise I should die. This is about playing with it. About trying to get hold of that tricky stuff which always seems to get away. It drives me crazy ... and I love it. I'm crazy about it.