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

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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!!

Lapland Spring 2009

As you may have guessed I have been in Lapland again for three weeks.  The ability to schedule posts to appear and having Jeremy as a guest blogger have filled my absence.  Many thanks to Jeremy for some very interesting and informative posts.  I hope he will be providing more soon :>)

I will be writing about my trip as soon as, and when I can but please be patient as I have some health issues and have to undergo some tests in hospital over the next few days.

I also took a video camera with me this time, and will again in the autumn with the intention of making a film about the nature and people of the area.  I just need to find someone to help me edit it all together!!

Here’s a picture to give a feel of what’s to come…


Willow bed

A couple of winters ago,after a basket making course run by Fenlander, I collected some cuttings of osier (Salix viminalis) to create my own willow bed or ‘holt’ in my garden as a handy supply of rods for future projects.IMG_3725The cuttings were 8-10″ long and about finger thick.The top is cut flat across and the bottom angled. This makes pushing them into the ground easier and helps you get them the right way up!To make the holt I ,firstly,laid layers of cardboard on the ground held down and edged with logs.Holes were made through the card and the cuttings pushed in.The whole area was then thickly mulched with bark,wood chippings,sawdust and grass clippings. As the bed is next to my firewood processing area it receives regular top ups- however it has still needed occassional weeding to help the willow establish.

IMG_3720Here is the holt in its second spring. I’ll make my first cut this winter and hopefully next year the stumps will throw up multiple stems which I can use for basket work.

IMG_3711Here are two frame baskets, which I made on Fenlander’s course, and a couple of simple trays/pot stands.

Honey and Walnut Soda Bread

Ingredients: 200g. shelled walnuts

200g. honey

300ml water

500g. wholemeal flour (or half wholemeal/spelt,half white for a slightly lighter loaf)

4 tsp. baking powder

10g. salt

Place a dutch oven over the fire to pre-heat. Crush half the walnuts to a rough powder in a pestle and mortar or bash/roll with a log inside a bag. Break the rest of the walnuts into largish chunks.Heat the honey and water gently until the honey has dissolved and set aside to cool slightly.Combine the flour,all the walnuts,baking powder and salt in a bowl.Pour in the ‘honey water’ and mix to a soft dough. Turn out onto a floured board and shape into a rounded loaf.Place into the oiled and pre-heated dutch oven, cutting a deep cross through the top.Put the oven lid on and cover with embers.

Check after about 20 minutes but it shouldn’t take longer than about 30 minutes.IMG_3240_sThis recipe makes a lovely, rich and filling loaf which is best eaten straight away or within a day.

I’ve given all the measurements for the ingredients here but  I’ve found,over time, that it’s useful to adapt recipes to proportions and get to know how much your particular bits of kit hold,eg. my kuksa holds 1/4pt (150ml) of liquid and just over 4 oz (100g.) of flour.Don’t let precise measurements hold you back from experimenting!IMG_3244_s

A wayside salad

Recently I foraged for a ‘wayside’ salad for my lunch in the woods. I wanted a light meal that required minimal preparation and cooking as I needed to crack on with some craft work projects.

My salad consisted mainly of small leaved lime leaves with the leaves of hawthorn,wild strawberry,hedge garlic and hairy bittercress and the leaves and flowers of honesty plus a scattering of primrose and violet flowers. I added 2 hard boiled eggs to the bowl and drizzled a simple dressing of rapeseed oil and balsamic vinegar over it.Yum!IMG_3588_s