Lapland Spring 2009 – 28th May

Still raining and also a very strong westerly wind today.  The rain cleared in the evening and it became sunny but with wintry showers and a temperature of 3 degrees, so I had a fire going most of the day

fire in  cabin (Medium)

I spent the day carving and sanding the kåsa and also began making a smaller one from an off-cut of the bur.

cutting second kasa (Large)

I had purchased a nice Birch tanned Reindeer hide a few months ago and decided to cut out some pieces to make pouches for coffee, flour and so on.

birch tanned reindeer leather (Medium)

I cut two pieces; a round piece for the base and rectangular piece long enough to go around the circumference of base

cut pieces of leather (Large)

I intended to use a bone awl and antler needle I had made, with dental floss as thread

bone and antler tools (Medium)

but it was not before I had broken the needle and then the awl, so I changed to a nail as a an awl and the needle I carry in my neck pouch as mentioned here.

metal tools (Medium)

Dental floss is a very good substitute for real sinew as a sewing thread and I use both sinew and dental floss double thickness.  I sew around the base first and then up the side with the leather inside

sewing (Medium)

Once sewing is completed I turn the pouch the right way out, make a series of holes around the top and thread through a leather cord with which to close the bag

bag tie (Medium)

For a toggle for the draw cord  I  cut a triangular piece of leather, role it up and make a hole through it, pulling the tip of the leather through the hole to prevent the leather unrolling.  I make two holes in the rolled up toggle and thread the ends of the cord through.  To close the bag you pull the toggle and it locks the bag closed.

toggle (Medium)

Then the bag is completed.

coffee bag

Lapland Spring 2009 – 27th May

I woke up to very heavy rain this morning and it continued all day!!

I made pancakes for breakfast using de-hydrated egg and milk powder.  I have to say they were surprisingly good.

pancakes (Large)

Last autumn I found a nice Birch bur on a fallen tree and so I decided to start carving a kåsa from it

Kasa (Medium)

Lacking a vice I had to come up with innovative ways to secure the bur while cutting it

Kasa-2 (Medium)

Kasa-3 (Large)

I had begun roughing out the shape the previous evening

me carving (Medium)

and gradually it was starting to take shape

Kasa outside

I always shape the inside before working the shape of the outside

kasa inside (Large)

I had been told that the bur would cut like butter and be easy to carve but I found it incredibly hard work

Kasa-4 (Large)

I have a nice piece of Reindeer antler that I wanted to use as the handle

kasa with original handle (Medium)

and so I spent time shaping the antler with a piece of Granite to achieve a good joint

antler handle (Medium)

My evening meal was simple but still tasty and enjoyable. Dried sausage, onion and mushrooms fried with split peas beans and oats, with a little vegetable stock added.

basic meal (Medium)

After frying a little water is added and simmered for 20 minutes

basic meal completed (Large)

It has been very quiet for birds today due to the rain; I male Smew and 1 Whimbrel flew over calling

Lapland Spring 2009 – 26th May

I wanted to get more video footage so spent the day filming.  I began by filming birds around the cabin.  A male Hen Harrier (Circus cyaneus) was a new species, flying low over the cabin. This is a Northern Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula).

Northern Bullfinch

After breakfast I walked over to the marsh to film the Common Crane and the sounds of wading birds displaying.  I crossed the marsh and headed into the forest.

in the forest (Small)

When you are deeper into the forest it is incredibly quiet for birds and the animals disappear before you can get close to them, so I made my way through the forest to one of my favourite spots where the forest has been cleared and there is an observation tower to sit in.  As I came out of the forest I was walking around this tree stump

Caper nest (Small)

when a female Capercaillie jumped up from her nest and almost knocked me over.  The nest contained 6 eggs, slightly larger than those of a chicken.

Caper eggs (Small)

I was filming the nest when I heard something moving in the forest and I could see the brown back of a mammal moving along behind a ridge.  As I watched a head appeared and it was a Red Fox.  I filmed it as it came towards me to investigate but when it realised what I was it turned and ran off.

As I walked up to the tower I saw a Moose feeding on trees along one edge of the clearing.  I filmed it briefly but then it saw me and disappeared into the forest.  I climbed up onto the tower

in hunting tower

and watched for movement across the open clearing

cleared forest (Medium)

A Black Woodpecker flew into the clearing and landed on a tree stump ( a new species in Lapland for me) and another Moose walked across the clearing grazing on Birch regrowth.

I was walking back through the forest and decided to check out a small area of marsh.  As I walked through the trees to the marsh I heard something running across the wet ground.  I walked onto the marsh and stood watching where the animal had run into the forest.

edge of marsh (Small)

I looked to my right and noticed the moss had been disturbed and when I walked to it there were a clear line of tracks going across the marsh………bear tracks…….very fresh bear tracks

Bear print (Small)

How did I know they were fresh?….well when you tread on the moss it compresses and water fills the hole or track.  Gradually the moss rises again (rather like a sponge) and the water disappears.  When I first found this track it had water in it.  I saw or heard nothing more but this is the closest encounter I have had with bear so far.

Birds of note;  I male Rustic Bunting around the cabin, 3 Willow Tit and 1 Whooper Swan on the lake in the evening.

Lapland Spring 2009 – 25th May

Temperature dropped to zero degrees last night.  After filtering buckets of rain water through parachute material

filtering rain water (Medium)

I decided to have a shower.  Then I checked the fish trap but unlike last year when I trapped several fish, so far I had caught nothing…..and today was no different!!  (I had planned to make some willow traps but all the areas of willow I visited had been devastated by Moose during the winter and the wands were only 30 – 40cms long).  Keen to try out my new frying pan I decided to make a dry bannock bread mix, adding dried fruit and nuts, dig some worms for bait and go fishing

bannock ingredients (Medium)

After a couple of hours staring at a float with only one bite, I decided to make a  fire to fry the bread on.  I gathered loose Birch bark from the trees

birch bark (Small)

and the charred remains of a previous fire to get the fire going.

fire (Small)

I added water from the lake to my dry mix to make a dough

mixing bannock (Small)

I always make my breads smaller than the pan because then I find it much easier to get a spoon or spatula underneath it to turn it over.

dough in pan (Small)

I cooked it for a few minutes on each side

cooking bannock (Medium)

sprinkled a little sugar on to caramelise and it was done.

fried bannock (Small)

Because I was wearing my crusader cup possibles pouch, containing sugar, coffee and hot chocolate I was also able to make a brew.

possibles pouch (Small)

Later I walked to an area where bear had been seen to see if there were any fresh signs, but there wasn’t any evidence at all

looking for bear sign (Small)

However that wasn’t to be the case the following day…..

I did get nice views of a Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia) which was a new species for this visit.

As Simon and Sebastian are both fans of Crocodile Dundee I spent the evening making and testing a “Bullroarer” to give to them.  I carved a piece of wood to the dimensions 60cm long x 4cm wide and 1cm thick.  Made a hole in one end with my knife and attached a piece of string.

bullroarer (Small)

Here it is in action (the bird you can hear is a displaying Wood Sandpiper)

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Hazel Grouse was the only new species today.  I noted that it was very quiet for birds this evening.

Lapland Spring 2009 – 24th May

My official birthday today so I opened some cards I had brought with from England

birthday (Large)

The boys were heading home today so although I still needed to cut and prepare more poles, I decided to put up the tipi.  I started my lashing four poles together

making tipi (Small)

and then laid more poles between them.  I folded my parachute in half and tied the folded edges to two poles, then pulled the ‘chute around the frame with one of the poles.

tipi (Small)

You can see that more poles were required b ecause the parachute material was sagging in some places, but the boys seemed happy with it!

boys in tipi (Small)

I wanted to learn the boys some plants so later in the morning we collected some plants and took them back to the cabin.  We placed them on paper and completely covered each specimen with sticky take to preserve them.  I wrote the English and latin name of each specimen and the boys added the Swedish name.  If they did not know the name of the plant we looked them up in the two Swedish plant guides I have.

plant collection (Large)

I noted the latin names of the plants and when I am back in England I will research their uses for the boys.

Bird sightings of note; Northern Bullfinch, Redpoll, GOSHAWK (new species), 20 Ruff lekking, Tree Pipit, Green Sandpiper, 1 pair Common Sandpiper breeding, 1 pair Wigeon, Tufted Duck, 2 groups of Black Grouse displaying.  Female Pied Flycatchers are now sitting on eggs.

Lapland Spring 2009 – 23rd May

I walked into the forest to cut some more poles and passed an area where a Redwing (Turdus iliacus) a member of the Thrush family was mobbing me and alarm calling so I decided to look around and see if it had a nest.  I did not have to look far

Redwing nest (Small)

The nest contained 6 eggs

Redwing eggs (Small)

I had cut down some poles when the boys joined me again and as there were many mosquitoes I decided to show them how to make a smudge fire to help keep the mosquitoes away.  The lose bark from the Pine can be collected  and will ignite with a spark from the firesteel

Pine bark (Small)

but to make it easier for the boys to make fire we collected Old Man’s Beard Lichen

Old mans beard (Small)

We used the lower dead branched from the poles I had cut as fuel and then started to add the green branches

making smudge fire (Small)

to produce smoke

smudge (Small)

This was sufficient to keep most of the mosquitoes away, but I demonstrated that added much more green Pine would produce a high column of white smoke which can be used as a signal fire for emergencies or if lost and people are searching.

smoke fire (Small)

Although it was my birthday the following day, in Sweden (as it was a Saturday) it was my unofficial birthday so that people could drink and not have to drive to work the next day and Anki had arranged a party.  The whole family came to Anki’s cabin bringing food and presents.  (I feel so lucky to have these people as my friends because they owe me nothing yet they give me so much!!)  Here I am opening my gifts.

opening presents (Medium)

and here are the children enjoying the party

party (Medium)

My friend Teres had also made me a traditional birthday cake (at least that is what they told me it was……I was a little suspicious at first) called I think “Sill tarte” which translated means herring cake

Sill torte (Medium)

and it was FANTASTIC.  Savoury, not sweet but very tasty.

Here are the gifts they gave to me;

birthday gifts (Small)

two fleecs blankets, some candy sweets, a set of Moose (Alg) antlers on a crown to go on the wall of my cabin and a frying pan of the type traditionally used when cooking out in the forest.

In the evening we decided to go fishing and Simon wanted to show me good places to fish

Simon fishing (Medium) (2)

and of course he caught a fish!!!…..but I didn’t

Simon with fish (Medium)

As the sun began to set we made fire

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and spent the rest of the evening relaxing and watching the sun set

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Birds of note; Male Smew, Waxwings, Common and Parrot Crossbills, Siskin, Common Crane

Lapland Spring 2009 – 22nd May

Rowed to the far end of the lake first thing this morning and went walking in the forest, but very quickly it clouded over and really heavy rain fell.  I was soaked by the time I got back to the cabin and it’s times like that when I really appreciate have the cabin and a warm fire to go back to.

I collected the rain water from the roof of the cabin for drinking and cooking

collecting rain water (Medium)

While it was raining I carved some hooks from pieces of Pine

coat hooks (Large)

to nail up around the cabin to hang things from.

coat hooks on wall (Large)

After the rain stopped I decided to go into the forest to begin cutting small Pine trees for poles to make a traditional style tipi or kåta.  I was careful in my selection, taking a tree where two were very close together and only one would survive, or trees that did not look so healthy.

Pine poles (Small)

Once I had cut down a tree, I removed all the branches with my axe

sneding tipi poles (Small)

To remove the bark I drove the tip of a knife into a wooden batten to make a simple draw knife

peeling poles (Small)

I tried eating the inner bark which was surprisingly tasty and quite sweet.

I was having lunch and some coffee at my cabin when I heard the voices of children in the forest

me at cabin (Medium)

It was the grandchildren of my friends Anki and Ingvar who were coming to visit me.  The children are taught survival skills in school in Sweden and they were keen to learn new skills from me.  Particularly making fire without matches.

I began by demonstrating the bow-drill to them and then we headed into the forest to collect different tinders for them to experiment with using firesteels.

seb making fire (Small)

We also experimented with flint and steel to make fire with True Tinder fungus

Rasmus making fire (Small)

The boys were also keen to teach me things as well.  Here they are explaining how to navigate in the forest using Wood Ant nests

boys showing ants nest (Small)

and here Simon is demonstrating how to eat the ants without being bitten.

Simon eating Wood ant (Small)

They were actually quite pleasant to eat.

We spent the evening fishing though no one caught anything.

Simon fishing (Medium)

New birds; Redstart, Song Thrush, Mallard, Teal, Whimbrel, Capercaillie and two groups of Black Grouse lekking on the edge of the marsh.

Lapland Spring 2009 – May 21st

Left Gallivare early and Anki drove me to my cabin.  We had to stop briefly to allow some Reindeer to cross the road.

reindeer crossing road (Large)

My first task was to check for damage, unlock all doors and remove the protective boards from the cabin windows.

cabin windows (Medium)

With temperatures in the mid to late 20’s before I arrived, it was a very different scene

P1020339 (816 x 612) (Small)

to what I had encountered at the same time last year

Clearing snow again (816 x 612) (Large)

I had with me a huge Reindeer skin which I had bought at Jokkmokks marknard in winter and Anki and Ingvar had stored for me.

Reindeer skin (Small)

Once I had got the boat out onto the lake I rowed to the far end to collect fresh drinking water from the spring

going to fetch water (Medium)

The spring water is beautifully clear and refreshing

drinking spring water (Small)

I made fire in the stove but found that the chimney was blocked and so had to climb on to the roof to sweep the chimney.

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The problem was a mouse which had made a nest inside the chimney.  With the chimney cleared I was able to make fire and and boil water for coffee.

In the evening I decided to walk to the marsh

marsh (Small)

There were lots of birds on the marsh including; 20 Ruff displaying, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, Wood Sandpipers, 5 displaying Lapwing (there were none last year), many Scandinavian race Yellow Wagtails with dark heads and as I was watching a Common Crane flew in and landed.  On the ground around me there were many Cranberries remaining from last autumn which I collected to eat

Cranberries (Small)

The marsh is a very dangerous place.  You are supported on a thick mat of Sphagnum moss and other vegetation but if you break through the surface there is nothing below

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While in Gallivare I had bought a pair of wellington boots to enable me to get around on the marsh.  Unfortunately the left foot had a fault and was not water resistant and so I got a wet foot

boots (Medium)

I spent the rest of the evening relaxing and birdwatching around the cabin and saw many species; Redpoll, Pied Flycatcher, Brambling, Great tit, White Wagtail. Common Sandpiper, Siskin, Tree Pipit, Goosander, House Martin, Crossbills, Waxwing, Spotted Flycatcher, Swallow, Raven, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Tufted Duck, Green Sandpiper, Curlew, Cuckoo, Chaffinch, Great spotted Woodpecker, Goldeneye and Smew.

Lapland Spring 2009 – 20th May

I  wrote about the mine after my winter trip but never expected to be given the opportunity to visit it as it is not open to public viewing.

We arrived at the mine just before six in the evening and had to visit security to check-in.  Because Ingvar only speaks Swedish, Finnish and Saami and I only speak a little Swedish and no Finnish or Saami, his brother-in-law Kjell would be my guide.

outside mine (Large)

Here is the processed ore which has been brought to the surface and is waiting to be loaded on to trains to be taken to sea ports at Lulea and Narvik.

piles of ore (Medium)

Here is a piece of  un-processed ore which I was given


and here is the processed ore in pellet form

processed ore (Medium)

As we drove below ground I was not sure what to expect, but I did not expect two lanes of traffic (including large lorries) to be coming and going.  (Now I should mention here that although I got some really nice video footage, my digital camera did not perform as well as I had hoped!!)

inside mine

The two main haulage levels are at 815 and 1000 metres in the Malmberget mine (Malm as I understand being the Saami word for Iron ore).  At each of these levels there are huge crushers through which the mined material is deposited.


12 huge mine trucks are operated at these levels. I was fortunate enough to be offered a lift in one of these trucks with Veronica and Ann-Sofia.  The trucks are driven to vertical shafts where the driver (in this case Ann-Sofia) controls loading from inside the cab of the truck by remote control.  The fully-loaded truck is then driven to a discharge station and the ore is emptied into a crusher bin.  This is also controlled from the cab of the truck. The ore is fed into the crusher and crushed into lumps of about 100 mm in diameter.

The ore then travels along a 1700 metre conveyor belt and from there is lifted to the surface by two 23 tonne skips at 16m per second.

The huge machinery required for drilling, setting explosive charges, rock supporting, loading and so on (here’s me next to a Toro loader)

me in mine

has to be serviced and maintained below ground and so there is a very impressive workshop

workshop-1 (Medium)

workshop-2 (Large)

I travelled 7km below the surface during my trip and one of the things I found most surprising was just how hot it was lower down.  I only had a t-shirt on under my high-vis. jacket but I was sweating a lot.  There are a complex system of fans and pipes which provide fresh air and remove stale air.

The explosive used when development drilling is a water resistant emulsion, which is pumped into pre drilled holes through a plastic hose.   A scaling truck mounted with a hammer drill is used to remove loose rock after the explosion.  Reinforcing bolts are grouted in 27mm holes  to support the rock and shotcrete (a 3-5cm thick support layer) is sprayed over the hole rock surface.

In production drilling the charging holes are filled with kimlux a bulk emulsion explosive.  The charging operation is automatic once the hose is in the hole.

You can read more about the whole process here;

Many thanks to LKAB for allowing me to visit the mine and to Ingvar, Kjell, Veronica and Ann-Sofia for making my tour very enjoyable.

Lapland Spring 2009 – 18th & 19th May

I arrived at Gallivare airport at 21:20 having left my home at 07:20 the same morning.  My friends Teres and Jenny were there to greet me and took my to the home of their parents and my friends Anki and Ingvar.  They had a meal ready for me and after a brief chat with Ingvar he headed off to bed as his next shift working in the mine commenced at 4am.  I went to bed just after midnight and here is the view from their window at 00:15

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Next morning I was expecting to travel to my cabin but Anki had a surprise for me.  Ingvar had arranged for me to visit and go down into the mine to see how they extract the most important component for steel axe and knife blades…..Iron.  The visit was arranged for the following afternoon (Wednesday) and so I had an extra day to spend in Gallivare.

I decided to go for a walk in the nearby woods and soon found a fine example of True tinder fungus Inonotus obliquus, used for firelighting and to make a tea and treat some forms of cancer.

True tinder fungus (Small)

Fieldfares and Pied Flycatchers were also nesting in the trees.  Ingvar finished his shift at 14:00 and we headed into town to buy some alcohol as they were planning a party for my birthday later the same week.

In Sweden the sale of alcohol is state controlled and to purchase wine and spirits you must visit a “System Bolaget”

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This is from their website;

“Systembolaget, the Swedish Alcohol Retail Monopoly, exists for one reason: To minimize alcohol-related problems by selling alcohol in a responsible way, without profit motive.

The first alcohol monopoly ever started in the mid 1800s in Sweden. It worked so well that the model was spread all over the country. In 1955, the local companies were merged to form a single, national Systembolaget company, a concept which still works.

Systembolaget’s product range is actually one of the most comprehensive in the world. It is being developed continuously to match changes in trends and in the consumers’ tastes.”

The rest of the day was spent chatting and eating and I went to bed that evening with the visit to the mine on my mind.  Not only because it was happening the next day, but also between 00:00 and 04:00 explosives are set off in the mine and you can feel the ground shuddering as this takes place!!