Autumn in Lapland 23rd September 2008

Cloudy first thing, then sunny but became overcast late afternoon and cleared just before dark.

This morning I sat and watched a Great-spotted Woodpecker wedge a cone in the crack of a tree trunk as a vice, so it could extract the seeds.

Here is the end result

I decided to make a bird feeder using bits I had found discarded by others. It’s amazing how long such a simple thing can take to make when you have limited materials and tools. The seeds drop out of holes at the bottom of the tube.

This afternoon I collected two fallen Birch for firewood for a winter trip I am planning. I cut the trees up using a sabre cut saw (a kind of hand operated chainsaw with teeth pointing in both cutting directions).

Then I carried the sections back to the cabin for cutting up and splitting.

some were too big to carry on my shoulder so using this piece of rope


I made a simple handle for dragging the logs back, which reduced the strain on my back.

On one of the trees there was a really nice bur (a bur in Swedish is called a “kasa” and so as I understand it is not the cup that is truly the kasa, but the item it is made from). In Finland they are called “kuksa”.

There has been a male Crossbill singing around the cabin most of the day and a pair of Northern Bullfinch appeared briefly. There was also a black form of the Red Squirrel around and when I rowed to the far end of the lake at dusk there was a female Moose feeding on Bog Bean. A male then appeared calling to her, she replied and then they both disappeared into the forest.

Spring in Lapland – 27th May

So I was up at about 02:15 to try and find the beaver (there are Chaffinch and Redwing singing in this piece of film).

The first birds I saw were a pair of Long-tailed Ducks sitting on the ice outside the cabin.

I walked around the lake and on the northern edge I could hear gnawing of bark and could see the water moving. I moved very slowly and managed to get to about three metres of the beaver, who was completely unaware of my presence.

I even filmed it for a short time

before it noticed I was there and with a slap of its tail on the water it was gone.

Pleased with my success I walked over to the marsh where there was nothing unusual and then made my way back to my bed.

After breakfast I decided to walk to a much larger lake that I had visited last autumn. Minerals in the ground mean that a compass can not be relied upon for navigation so as I travel I keep looking back to note distinctive features that I can look out for as I travel back. I also make small marks on trees to help define my return route. The picture below shows a mark on the left of the tree so I know I must turn left here.

The lake is in a low valley and it was almost like going back a week in time as there was still a lot of snow and most of the lake was frozen!


Smew, Goosander and Goldeneye were the only birds here and I also flushed a female Capercallie as I walked back.

I spent the rest of the day rubbing down and painting more windows and I finished the kuksa I was making.

Spring in Lapland – 26th May

As predicted I awoke to a wet rainy morning, which then turned to snow. By mid afternoon it was sunny but with an icy cold north wind.

1 Common Gull flew low over the lake, 1 Redwing singing just outside cabin, 1 male Wheatear around the cabins today (probably forced to take a break from its migration by the weather), I Wryneck (a member of the Woodpecker family) around today. Here is a picture of it on the sauna chimney

I spent most of the day working on the kuksa that I started yesterday to give as a gift to the guy who gave me the knife.

I also collected some local plants to experiment with as food;

I have found references to “Old Mans Beard” lichen being used as a survival food.


If cooked for a long time it is supposed to release starch and has also been used as a gluten substitute to make bread.

It reminded me of pubic hair prior to cooking and after testing it at various intervals during a 10 hour cooking period, it didn’t change much!

I do recall from a Ray Mears programme though, that the resulting water could have been used to treat fungal infections.

A plant that I do enjoy is Labrador Tea

though if I drink too much of it, it sometimes gives me stomach ache.

This evening as I sat carving the kuksa, a beaver appeared swimming around the edge of the lake.

I’ve decided I will get up early tomorrow morning to try and find where it is feeding.

Birch Bur Kuksa

I’ve been wanting to try carving a kuksa from a Birch bur and finally got the chance to do it. The Birch bur is an abnormal growth on the trunk of the tree


Which yields a beautiful grain pattern when carved. Here is the kuksa I have carved which requires some sanding and then oiling to bring out the grain pattern.


Once completed and oiled, I will add another picture below.

For Louie, 90% of the work was done with this gouge chisel which is currently a favourite tool to work with, second only to my knife.

Kuksa completed

I’ve just completed my Kuksa. I estimate it has taken about 6 hours to make it. I made it out of a piece of Cherry and in the picture below, the kuksa is standing on the other half of the log that I carved it from and the tools I used.


Traditionally they are carved out of a Birch bur, but using half a split log producing just as good a result.