🏴 . 🌱 . ᚫ // "En besvärjelse för att avvärja mörkret"
The little forest bonfire we had for Valborg / Walpurgisnacht last month, which is also our wedding anniversary.
Valborg is a traditional festival to usher in the Spring, ward off evil spirits and protect livestock and the homestead in the year to come. The contemporary name and date trace back to a German saint, but the sentiment likely pre-dates Church influence — it's deeply rooted folkloric custom stuff. In either case, it's celebrated in the only way the Nordic and Northern European peoples know how to celebrate anything.. by starting fires while drinking and singing!
That we also chose this day to get married means that that we always get to have a firey celebration. It also means that neither of us can ever forget our anniversary, which we'd both definitely do otherwise.
The snow returned this week. A little Winter bleed-through that sent the first traces of Spring into retreat.
Poetic April showers and all that...
Sunlight still warms the ground when the clouds clear, and the overnight ice is gone by the time we wake up. Early flowers continue to blossom regardless, scattered in patches of purple and yellow. They sprout wherever the winds, birds or insects seed them, highlighting the mostly unkempt inner garden. Rhubarb, garlic and wild garlic shoots are pushing up through the earth, winter sown onions and cabbages too. The rest of the plants lie dormant still. Patient.
The house is filled with other seedlings waiting to be planted. Hundreds of green shoots huddled beneath grow lights, stacked on window-sills, tables, chairs, shelves.
Out in the warm compost, lizards have begun to stir uneasily. Unsure of the season. Overhead, migratory birds return in flocks. Cranes and geese chatter and warble, Kestrels and Falcons join in the hunt with the circling Buzzards. Out in the forest, farrow turn over their first mossy stones. Eventually they will mature into the great boar that will rampage across the forest floor. Roebuck rub their antlers on trees, tearing off bark and leaving wounds that will eventually leave the tree dead. Dry. Rotten. Fallen. Providing new habitats for other, smaller forms of life.
Small celebratory fire for Easter (or for Ēostre, if she ever actually existed outside of Bede's addled imagination) and to ease the passing of the påskhäxa. Also a warming up for Valborgsmässoafton, where there will be much drinking, singing and collapsing. I foresee it so.
Still working my way through the felled Birch that the previous owner left behind. Add this to the stores in the barn and woodshed that we didn't get to this Winter and we're easily approaching a two-year stockpile. Which is exactly where we want to be.
It's good to allow wood to season for at least two years before burning it, which ensures the moisture held in the core evaporates. Unseasoned wood makes for inefficient and dirty fuel. It's harder to ignite, generates less heat and produces a lot of smoke and tar. The latter will fuck up your flue if you don't get it regularly cleaned, and the former is.. well ya know. On the topic of smoke, improperly seasoned wood is also a major cause of black carbon emissions. Other common contributors are bad kindling (fire starting) techniques and overall bad management of fire conditions (air flow, fire size, burning temperature etc) which leads to messy and incomplete combustion. It's important to remember that all of this can be reduced with a little knowledge and preparation.
There's a lot to keep in mind when burning wood, because it's absolutely not a carbon-neutral fuel, despite what the greenwashed industry rhetoric of bio-fuel suppliers and wood-stove manufacturers would have you believe. I suspect misinformation about this will continue to spread in our restless age of information, so enamoured as it is with inadequate profit-motivated gestures toward sustainability.
Honestly I am a bit infatuated with this pine tree. It's not that it's a particularly noteworthy example of a pine tree, but it stands alone on the edge of the what-was-once-and-will-soon-be-again meadow, shadowing the Jordkällare (Earth Cellar). There are no tree's of comparable size around it, as it's mostly smaller fruit tree's (plum, cherry, apple) this close to the house, and anything bigger (like birch, fir and other pines) would outcompete the meadow itself and overshadow the growing area.
So, it's one of those tree's that's always visible around the grounds of the house. Always in eyeshot. A sort of, navigational point. You have to circle around it to get to and from the house>meadow>forest, so I like to consider it a point of circumambulation (a kind of meditative act of, quite literally, walking around a sacred object in circles).
Have started producing this series of notes/slides for the Instagram (ugh, I know) account that (will eventually) accompany this blog. The idea is to offer some short introductions to permaculture and green anarchist principles, but who knows what esoteric tangents I'll end up taking. Anyway, I thought I'd dump them here first.
Typeset in Osmose and Inferni from the Blaze Type folio.
I felt like it was time to retire the Narrow Road name, which I stole from Bashō anyway. When I started this blog it was only to keep an online record of brief cut-up texts I was producing for a zine at the time. Lately I've felt like making something more of it.
So, going forward I'm intending to use this as more of a record of ongoing work and topics I'm exploring in daily life here in my Flat Mountain home. Things like permaculture, meadow restoration, forest management, food security, non-individualist/community prepping (see how I skillfully skirted around calling it anarchism there?). Probably some more folk-plant notes once I get my poison garden seeded too. And no doubt there'll still be shitty cut-up texts from my dubious ongoing relationship with Zen Buddhism.
Another twelve hours of snow-fall..
awoken this-morning by the deafening silence..
so it goes...
The sun rises and holds higher in the sky now, bringing longer and fuller days with it. Beams of sunlight press in against the dying of the Winter, slicing through the skeletal forest and warming the ice-sheets on roofs. The world is still captured in monotone, but it's more expressionist in its highlights now. The granite and glacial features cast long shadows, their angular forms heavy with all the weight of deep geological time.
The house is filled with seeds now, sowed beneath grow lights. We anxiously await the Spring. The thaw. The time for work. Growing. Renovation. Cycles renewed.
Temperatures have dropped to around -20 in the mornings now. During the day they mostly hover between -10 and -5. Cold, but the wind is still, so it's nothing a hat and an extra jumper can't fix.
All the lakes are frozen over. Spotted with ice-fishers and ice-skaters at the weekends. In the evenings you might catch kids from the local town, pulling doughnuts on them in their cars. Personally, I don't mind walking or skating on the ice, but thinking about driving cars around on it makes my legs twitch with a kind of uncanny vertigo.
The ice holds though.
If you stand out on the bigger lakes, you can hear the Singing Ice. The warbling sci-fi ambience that rises from the depths, generated by the ice shifting with temperature fluctuations — an imperceptible movement generating varying frequencies of noise. It sounds like a synthesised alien whale song, produced by a 70s Moog.
If you've never heard this, I highly recommend looking up some audio of singing lake ice.