Crayfish

This weekend we went out looking for crayfish. I haven’t been fishing for crayfish for years, but this weekend I packed a rucksack with some warm clothes and a bucket, summoned the boys and went out. We didn’t know if there were any crayfish left as I haven’t been looking for them for years. I know they declined a lot some years ago because of acid rain from pollution from factories all over Europe. But nonetheless we went on our way to the little creek I used to go to when I was a kid.

Here is one of the boys setting out some bait.

We arrived just before it got dark, and put our bait out, the bait was some leftover grilled chicken. The grilled chicken did the trick somewhat, and we managed to catch a few crayfish. I had to catch them in the water as they thought they looked scary, but after a while they wanted to try to hold them.

Holding a crayfish for the first time.

The boys got more excited when they saw the crayfish crawling on the bottom and they tried to get me into deep water to catch more of them.

We hadn’t plan to stay over for the night so there was no sleeping bag or tent. Which might have been a little mistake as the boys got quite sleepy.

The boys got sleepy and fell asleep on the rocks.

We did not catch so many this time, but the boys had fun and we agreed to go back next weekend with tent and sleeping bag so we can catch more and make dinner for the whole family.

When we got home we put the crayfish in the kitchen sink to have them ready and fresh for dinner.
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Spring has sprung! The aftermath.

When we went home from our trip last weekend, we let our gear stay behind. We did this for two reasons. The first and the good one is that we are going back this weekend to try our luck to see the black grouse play again. The other one, that is not good at all is caused by ignorance and bad behaviour. I have been on this marsh many times during my life, the first time I went up to see the black grouses alone I was 10 years old. It really hasn’t changed much there since then. At lest not the nature it self. The one thing that has changed on the other hand is us, the humans. I have always tried to make as little impact on nature as I can when I go out to enjoy the time I can there. To me that mean to try to leave no trace of man made things behind. I’m not perfect, so you will find traces of me too, but not on purpose as I am quite sure some people do.

So, back to the story. When we arrived to the campsite last weekend some of the snow had melted and made some things visible, things that absolutely not belong in nature.

Something in this picture should not be there.

This is some of the things that came out from under the snow. To me, this is not acceptable. If you leave things behind, you use it as much as you intend, and then you bring it back. These things have been laying there for a while and it was broken I found out after examining it. So this was garbage as soon as they took it down. The boys were appalled when I said it was garbage and they told me about what they have learned about not leave plastic in nature. So we concluded that we had to bring it home and dispose of it properly. So this is reason number two for leaving our gear behind. I started to fill my backpack with the old tarps laying around and strapping the chairs on the outside of it. Meanwhile the boys took a plastic bag and picked up all the smaller litter parts they could find.

The boys filled a plastic bag of litter. They carried it the on they way home, putting litter in it as they found

The message here is, please leave no litter in nature. If you can carry it in you can carry it out. It might be just a drop in the ocean, but if every one do it, it will make an impact. It helps the environment, animals won’t get hurt and it makes it much more pleasant to the eye without seeing garbage laying around.

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Spring has sprung! Part 2

After we got into our sleeping bags it was time to recollect the days adventure. The boys were mighty proud of how tough they had been walking the 4 kilometres from where we parked the car. The camp boss had to agree they had been super tough walking for so long in terrain that was almost impassable.

Then we fell a sleep one by one. I usually wake up a few times a night when I sleep in a sleeping bag, and this time was no different. The first time I woke, the two boys were talking in their sleep, almost as they were talking to each other. I couldn’t understand what they were saying but it was enjoyable. The second time I woke up this night i woke myself up by snoring, that happens sometimes, but it’s not a good thing when we are supposed to be as silent as we can to not startle the birds that come in to sit in the trees around the marsh at night. So after falling asleep again, we slept till 4:30 in the morning. It was quiet. No birds had started playing yet, which is not usual. They often start around 4 in the morning, but not now. So we dozed of again and woke up an hour later. Unfortunately no birds had showed up, but now we could hear at least two making their distinct playing sound in some trees not too far from the tent. The boys had been surprisingly quiet, they really wanted to see the birds up close so I started to try to lure them in with my limited call skills. They didn’t get fooled this time, so we had to be satisfied with just hearing them from a distance this time.

So we got out of our sleeping bags and started the day. The boys immediately ran out on the marsh, they only had time to put on their boots before they took of. I started with breakfast, which was some bacon this time. Bacon is always good, but cooked on a campfire it’s even better. The boys got back from their morning exploring with their boots filled with snow, so we had to dry them up a bit while breakfast was consumed.

Drying up in the morning sun.

When breakfast was over we got dressed and started packing down some of our gear. Actually we left most of it, but that’s a story I will come back to. The boys got around for some more playing on the marsh while I sat down for a cup of coffee, the best kind, kettle brewed.

The best kind of coffee.

After the coffee and some lazy time in the heather, I called the boys in to get ready to go. As they got back they went to the campfire to play with some sticks and at that moment disaster struck! The teddy bear or or bunny as it is called fell into the campfire. The camp boss quickly told the boys to not pick it up by themselves so it took a few seconds before I could get it out. Luckily she got away with not to severe burns, some fur was burned away but she’ll live to be cuddled another night.

As we were ready to go the other boy almost sobbed as he could not find his teddy bear or tiger cloth as he is called. I asked him where did you see him last and he replied”in a tree” then I asked which tree? “I don’t remember” he said. So, then we started backtracking looking up in every tree he thought it could be in. After walking around for half an hour we found it! It had fallen from the tree it was stuck in and down a hole in the snow. The relief was huge as we have a leave no teddy bear behind policy.

Then we were on our way. The trip home was led by the boys, and they were not too bad finding the way, only some small corrections from time to time. The way home was a little bit easier than the way in as we walked in our own tracks so the snow didn’t give away so easy. After going for a while the youngest tripped head first down a puddle of mud, he was ok, but the bunny got the most of it. She got really dirty and might have not made it if he hadn’t been so resolute when he pulled her up.

Bunny getting some tlc when we have a break on our way home.

Luckily the rest of the trip home was without any more incidents.

As I wrote earlier in the post we didn’t take all our gear with us home. There are two reasons for this. One is that we are going back this weekend and the second I will reveal in my next post.

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Spring has sprung! Part 1.

This weekend we had a nice trip with n the forest. The snow is on its way to melt, even though we had our encounters with it this weekend too. The goal for this trip was to try to spot some black grouse playing, fighting and showing of to be the king of the marsh. We started of around midday on Saturday, a little late since it was a good long hike. But the boys were ready for the task, and trudged on even if their feet were tired after a couple of hours walk in rough terrain.

Rough terrain for short legs, but they never complained.

There was time for a couple of stops on the way to replenish some energy with the help of snack bars and cocoa. I think the camp boss needed it more than they did as they just took a sip of their cocoa and ran around looking for interesting things to see while the camp boss lay on his back heaving for air in the heather.

The split second they stood still on our break before heading out to find interesting things.

We arrived by the marsh as the sun began to set. Pinched up the tent and and laid out the sleeping bags so they were ready for us after some food and getting our duties done before jumping in. And the duties on this kind of trip is to make sure you don’t have to go number one or number two before late next morning as we don’t want to disturb the black grouses at their play. The boys got the message and took the task seriously, we had to go several times before we settled completely in our sleeping bags.

Burning out the campfire before we go to bed.

After a pep talk about how fun it will be to see the birds and that we had to be really quiet we all fell a sleep in the cool spring night exited of what the morning would bring.

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The lava stories and sledding on stone weekend

Again we had a great trip this weekend, although we weren’t all three kids as I thought we would be. With a girl in her tweens it’s not that easy to get plans to sum up, she is starting to make her own plans and I don’t want to push her too much to come on our trips, it’s better if she can keep the joy of going with us when she wants. So, it was the two boys and the camp boss who went out this weekend. We got on our way, the two boys and the camp boss. And after approximately 252 meters, we found our camp spot. We brought the lavvu this time, and we got it up quite fast and almost round at the bottom and middle pole almost straight. Next up was the campfire, we found a nice spot under an old spruce just beside the lavvu. As soon as the fire was lit we started dinner. This was again, by popular demand hot dogs. After dinner we had some exploring to do. The snow is quickly melting these days so the ground is exposed some places, especially where it’s rock underneath. So we found some big rocks without snow on them that were great to slide down. Not very friendly on the clothes, but great fun.

Great rock to slide on. Much fun, but not clothing friendly.

After some sliding and exploring the darkness came creeping trough the forest. We went back to the campfire to have some Saturday candy for the boys and some coffee for the camp boss. The boys told some great stories about lava. Their encounters with that molten rock make some pretty awesome stories. I think every geologist would be envious of these stories. We had some great laughs and much fun listening and telling these stories.

The boys telling some great stories about lava and other adventures.

As night came closer we got up and went into the lavvu to find our sleeping bags. The boys jumped inside their bags and the camp boss let them watch a movie on his phone. I am not that strict about using technology when we are outside, we use it almost all the time in our daily life, so to use it a little bit when we are outdoors is okay in my opinion. Well they enjoyed almost a whole animated movie before they fell asleep, and not long after the camp boss was fast asleep too.

Our lavvu at nighttime. Dark outside, cosy inside.

We woke up just before the sunrise. We had a good night sleep, but everything was wet after a night with really dense fog. The boys snowsuit was wet when they went to bed the night before, so I had them in my sleeping bag and they had dried during the night. Usually they have them in their own sleeping bags, but this time they were to wet so it’s better that the camp boss is a little bit uncomfortable, than to kill the kids joy of sleeping in a sleeping bag by making it uncomfortable for them. We got our clothes on and went outside to a beautiful morning. First thing we did was going down to the lake to fetch some water for coffee and to drink. We did not have to drill a hole in the ice as the ice is gone from were the water runs out of the lake. So if these mild temperatures keep up for much longer, the ice will be gone in no time.

Fetching some water for coffee and breakfast.

After breakfast and some coffee for the camp boss and cocoa for the boys we set out to try some ice fishing. We found a good spot in the sunshine and drilled some holes. Set up the fishing gear and started to fish. The boys patiently try to catch some fish, but after about 20 minutes and several holes tried, they had to take a break. Just as they had rolled some rounds in the water on top of the ice, the camp boss felt a pull on his fishing gear. It was a small perch. The boys were satisfied with the catch even though they didn’t catch anything themselves. And after rolling in the water they were wet and started to get cold, so we decided to head home after a great and fun night out.

The boys trying to catch the big one.
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Our stay at the “castle”, part 2

As the day grew older, we started to think about going down to a lake and do some ice fishing. The boys ran around having fun with hide and go seek and climbing trees and I started packing our backpacks. After a while the packing was done and we were ready to go.

The camp boss trying to muster the troops.

After a little bit of hiking we encounter some interesting things in the snow. After some guessing what it could be, one of the boys thought it might have been a really big fox. But after taking a closer look we found out that it had been the day bed for two moose, cow and its calf. We also found a track from a lynx, not completely fresh, but not older than three or four days.We did not see any wild animals on this trip but we did hear the barking of a fox in the night. We know what the fox say!

The youngest one checking out the lynx tracks.

The hike homeward continued with the occasional sledding down the slopes we could find, and after some backtracking to sled some more we got to the lake where we thought about doing some ice fishing. But, after going down to the ice the camp boss decided we had to postpone it until the water on top of the ice freeze again or the water drain. The kids did not agree with the decision, they thought it would be great fun to skid around with water splashing all around. We hope to do some ice fishing without getting wet in the near future.

Sledding all the way!

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Our stay at the “castle”, part 1.

Saturday we headed out again for a night out in the forest. We did not bring skis this time, since the weather has been milder and quite a lot of snow has melted and made it more substantial, so I made a decision that we should walk on our feet. Luckily for us somebody had taken the trip before us some time ago, because it was pretty tiresome to walk in the heavy snow. And it was more snow than I anticipated, I thought the it would be almost the same depth as around our house, but the few meter higher it’s laying made a great difference in snow depth. But we made it in reasonable time. The kids are so good at making distance, they never complain anymore, just having a good time when they are hiking on their way with their backpacks.

Here we are on our way to the “castle”, this time it was the youngest one who was leading the way.

We made our way to the top of the hill where the castle is located, the camp boss made a campfire while the boys sled down the slopes surrounding the castle with shrieks of joy. The kids decided what to have for dinner, so we brought hot dogs. They love to grill them on the fire, especially the first one, then the camp boss usually have to take over and grill the rest. Then it was time to make the place for our sleeping arrangement. The snow inside the castle was in such state that i used my feet to flatten it out and it got hard enough to sleep on with some good sleeping pads on top.

A campfire is a fantastic multitasker, it gives warmth, comfort, gets the coffee ready and grilling hotdogs. I am sure it can handle more tasks too.

After a good nights sleep where the temperature dropped to not more than -5C, we woke up to a light grey day as a thin layer of clouds had sailed in during the early morning. We stayed in our sleeping bags to late morning, playing some rounds of snakes and ladders. The camp boss did not win any of the rounds. After some breakfast, which consisted of some candy from the night before and some sandwiches, we started packing to start our hike home.

A game of snakes and ladders in the sleeping bag on a late morning is fun.


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What you’ll need for winter camping, part 4

When camping outside in the winter you’ll need some essential things. To keep warm you need good garments, but if you start to get cold, you’ll need  some external heat source. The best thing is a campfire. To get going with a fire, there are some things that must be ready. First of all you need some tinder, the easy and comfortable way, is to bring some kerosene bricks from the store. And i highly recommend to have some stored in a waterproof container in your backpack,  just in case your campfire starter skills should momentarily get lost. I know my run off once in a while. But, if you have the time and opportunity to start your fire the old fashioned way, go for it! It`s a great feeling when your campfire start by using only one matchstick and all natural tinder. So, how do we do that? First of all it is the search for tinder. I prefer to use the outer bark from birch. You pull off the thin, white outer layer, the thinner the better. When I pull it off, I only take a small portion from one tree before I move to the next, so I won’t make irreparable damage to the tree. When you have a good portion of birch bark, about two big handfuls, it should be enough. Then I find thin twigs, these also as thin as possible, the best ones is dead outer twigs from spruce. you’ll need a good portion of this to make enough heat to start with bigger and thicker twigs. It is also possible to use tiles you have carved from a dry bigger log, but i only use that option if the small twigs are to wet or have an ice crust on them. Then you have to find twigs that are bigger to build a base for your campfire. Now for the actual fire. You start with a nice place to place your fire, the best if it is snow on the ground is to dig a hole down to the ground, and make a venting channel in the snow to make some draft for the fire. Then place  your birch bark in a heap and light it up. When it catches fire and begin to look healthy start putting on  the thin twigs a little bit at a time till you see that the fire won’t go out by it self. Then you can start putting on twigs that are a little bit thicker and wait for those to catch fire before you put on even bigger wood. Now the fire should have a good embers and ready for a night of giving warmth and comfort. I will make a video and put it on here in a later post, as I see it is hard to describe this only with words, and especially since english is not my native language. Hope you got the essence of it at least.

The camp boss making some tiles when the small spruce twigs was to ice crusted touse as first starters.
A nice fire with a good base of embers.
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It`s getting warmer this weekend!

It`s getting warmer this weekend, so we are planning a weekend on the ice. Our plan this weekend is to camp by a small lake, which is a good place to catch trout. And since the temperature is getting better, we can spend some quality time on the ice, without having to try to keep warm by moving or sitting by the campfire. The kids and I looked over the fishing equipment yesterday, we noticed that some of the fishing line was getting old and snapped to easy, so awe had to change them. We agreed that it would be bad if we lost fish from faulty gear. So according to the boys, now there is no limit how big fish we can catch.They might have a little bit to high hopes about our possible catch. We still have to bring the winter sleeping bags, since it might be down to -7 or so, spring is not here just yet, but we might come closer to it. We have stayed by the same small lake the past weekends, but now we are changing location to one of our favorite summer locations. The boys are still in their start phase of doing cross-country skiing, so it might be a tough trip for them since there is a lot of steep passages. But with enough encouragement, time and chocolate I think we will have a great trip.

An ice fisher in prospective
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What you’ll need for winter camping, part 3

Then we have the feet. They are important for a number of reasons, especially walking. And if they get cold, your whole body will feel uncomfortable and after a while you will freeze all over. So, how to dress your feet. First use a thin wool sock, then a thicker wool sock. I only use wool on my feet. Since the feet are crammed in a quite tight place, where moisture have little chance of escaping wool is the number 1 choice since it got the ability to keep warm even if its somewhat wet. So my advice is to leave your cotton and polyester socks at home. Your boots may need some adjustment too. The inner sole of your boot may be great for forming after your foot, but they might not insulate good enough from the cold ground. I buy boots a half or one size bigger than my feet, so i can insert a wool sole inside, approximately 7,5 millimeter thick. They might be possible to buy, but i make my own from an old wool carpet I have had for decades. This is what I use in my hiking and cross-country shoes. This works great for me, i rarely get cold feet, even when it`s down to -25 C. But, there is a but, if you get really wet on your feet, you will get cold. So always have extra socks in your backpack. This is paramount. Here comes a survival tip. Change to dry socks as soon as possible and if your boots are wet, which they probably are if your socks are, have a couple of plastic bags in your backpack, pull them on outside your socks and put on the wet boots. This way your new socks won’t get wet and cold. Wear it till you get the chance to dry your boots.

Here is one of the boys getting ready for some winter fun

We are still not finished with clothing, now we go to extremities. They are very important to look after. They get cold the fastest, and when they do, things quickly get harder to do. Its not only the freezing it self that’s bad, its also that you lose feeling in what you do. For example, when your fingers get really cold, simple things like packing your backpack can seem almost impossible. It hurts and you lose your strength. So we start with the mittens. I use a double layer mitten, they usually come with a fleece inner layer and a polyester outer layer. They work fine, but I replace the inner layer with a thicker wool mitten. Call me old fashioned, but I think wool works better if they get a little wet. The outer layer is also good to use with gloves inside. The reason for the double layer is that you can remove the outer layer and have better movement and feeling in the hand for setting up a tent or cooking. I also recommend an outer mitten with an elastic band lanyard, so when you take them off they won’t get lost.

Out in the cold, eating a on an icicle. Good times!
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