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|MONTHLY JOURNAL 2012|
A howling snow-witch dances across the meadow, as we lock the front door and pile into Håkans car. An hour later, we are on the train to Stockholm where Elisabeth and Hans are waiting.They surprise us with tickets to the Concert Hall, where the certified Glenn Miller Orchestra will be playing. Very nostalgic, and hundreds of gray heads nodding to the beat of "In the Mood" and other earrings from times gone by. Early next day Arlanda Airport, and at sunset landing at Boston Logan, where we meet USA on stiff legs after six hours cramped in airplane seats. A few days later a pleasant day trip to Vermont with our hosts Virginia,Tim and Lydia. Vermont's glowing autumn colors have faded, but the Quechee Gorge is impressive and the little town of Woodstock a new and interesting acquaintance.
The snow seems to follow us. Suddenly, but not surprisingly, the sky darkens and we are hit by a snowstorm causing slight chaos on the motorways, and some schools prefer to close in order to avoid accidents with schoolbuses. A contributing factor is that studded tires practically never are used, since snowy roads are not very common in this region.We tramp through the snow to a nearby store - no other pedestrians in sight. Over here the car is practically a part of the human organism, and one does not willingly walk long distances.
We spend an evening in Milford where people have gathered in the square to celebrate the Christmas story with song and music. From an illuminated bandstand the choir sings carols with intermittent readings from the Bible.With steaming breaths we join in the classic "Oh, Come All Ye Faithful" and "Joy To The World". According to traditions, Christmas dinner consists of a giant turkey with stuffing and all the trimmings. An added delicacy is the mushroom sauce made from chanterelles picked in the woods near Vintjärn. When dusk falls, we enjoy a blazing log fire, open our Christmas gifts and drink spiced red wine.
Raw mist is draped like a curtain over forest and lake, thin ice crunches at every stroke of the oars and the air is bitterly cold. Now begins the long frosty journey towards a new spring with blue water, warm winds and green leaves. I drag my boat through the woods and turn it over for the winter. Seated in lingonberry brush, my back against a rough pine, I enjoy a cup of lukewarm coffee and take a symbolic farewell of yet another summer. A dragonfly lies dead in the frozen grass, its life cycle closed. In due course a new generation of eggs will hatch and turn into those miniature underwater monsters with predatory instincts and powerful jaws, awaiting their transformation to winged insects. I gently put the dragonfly at the top of my backpack, take it home and put it on blue paper, better to see the intricate mesh of the wings.
Just when the timorous begin to hope for a snowfree winter, we are caught in a violent snow storm which in a few hours transforms the landscape and makes our nearby roads practically impassable.Those who predicted a mild winter will quickly alter their forecasts. But .... after only a few days the temperature rises, the snow turns into almost springlike rivulets and we walk on solid ground again. The bleak weather invites one to read and to indoor activities. With admirable dedication Bibi busies herself knitting little Christmas gnomes, strawberry hats and tree ornaments. As for myself I deal with a book by British author Robert Goddard, and is soon greatly enmeshed in the complex plot. Outside the windows, billowing mist, and when darkness falls, the night is black as pitch.
My desk is often in a state of disarray and confusion and any attempt to clean up gives at best very marginal results. In order to concentrate on work you need to clear the table of everything, except the tools and materials you need at the present. One should not have to look high and low for what is required. I open a sealed box and to my astonishment find assorted bundles of feathers, yarn and leather left from a time when I tied thousands of flies for various businesses and when, for the sake of speed, tied my flies in stages. I find among other items, 500 (!) unfinished Muddlers with wings, body and tail in place - but without the deerhair head. My “bible” at the time was A.K. Best's "Production Flytying", where I learned to take shortcuts, in order to make my work more profitable.
Late autumn, and my last tour of the year with float tube and pike flies. Biting winds waft through the woods, down the marshes and sweeps out on the water. Fingers become stiff, and I find it difficult to handle rod and line. Fishing is poor. After persistent rains the tarn is filled with black peat water of poor visibility. Perhaps the last frosty nights caused roach and perch to leave the shallows with the pike in tow. Trout Fishing is long since over, the last rises have long since ceased, and the icy waters glide silently between banks of brown sedgy vegetation. And the trout? I'm amazed at how they manage to stay alive on the scanty diet offered during the lengthy fall followed by a severe winter.
The moose hunt starts early this month. Concerns that ravaging wolves would have considerably depleted the stock were unfounded, and the hunt is a success after all. The real problem is that wolves naturally makes traditional hunting more difficult, since today's hunting-dogs need to be on a leash. During 4-5 days of hunting the Vintjärn team fells four large animals and five calves, in strict harmony with the allottment. Frank shoots a mighty bull with large antlers from his beat. During the season 2011-2012 more than 98,000 moose were killed in Sweden, a considerable amount, pleasing not only the hunters but the lumber companies too, since they care about their tender pine plants.
Reason has prevailed. Those of us who resisted are immensely pleased at the news that Mark-och Miljödomstolen says no to the expansion of wind power near Svartnäs, where Bergvik (a lumber company) had plans for 115 windpower stations, more than 200 feet high, along with miles and miles of wide roads right through the heart of the forest. This would have turned a beautiful wilderness into one big, noisy factory area. Our last demonstration takes place outside the county office in Falun, is a nation-wide manifestation under the slogan "WIND POWER MEANS SUBSIDIZED POLLUTION OF THE ENVIRONMENT”. Participants came from Svartnäs, Vintjärn and Svabensverk. Bergvik still has the opportunity to appeal, but we hope their chance of success is quite small.
Henry Cholmondely Pennell (1837-1915), English writer and angler, left a heritage of books and publications - and a certain fishing-fly made in a variety of colors named "The Pennell series". Most famous is "Black Pennell." I remember it from my early summers in Northern Scotland, when from a boat with a bottomless bucket as a drogue, I fished remote highland lakes with exotic names like Loch bad nam Mult Geisgeil, Loch nan Uidh and Cnoc Thormaid. This particular fly was very popular for dapping and as a wet fly, and it often sat on my leader. It is very decorative, ties well and I use it with preference. Silver-ribbed black body, sometimes with a silver tag, the tail of golden pheasant fibers and a black hackle.
A picture from last month's art tour. On this day area artists have open house where they display their work. Tore Östberg is a watercolourist who with a light hand and gentle brushstrokes depicts our region, Svärdsjö. At the beginning of the month we honor a promise to visit our friend Ola in Rendalen. After a six hour drive through northern Dalarna and the Norwegian mountains we arrive at Ola's place. Three years have passed since we last met, and over a cup of coffee we reminisce and lament the passage of time. Mists lie heavy over the valley, the air is cool and the small campground is lonely and abandoned. The heat of the sleeping bag and the rippling stream invites one to sleep. When we wake up, the sun has dispelled the darkness, and a new day has just begun.
I nurture a hope of a couple of days fishing, but the weather is far from ideal. Besides, after the recent and persistent rainfall, the river is too high, with grayish water. I walk along the bank and dutifully make a few casts just to exercise my arm. With a touch of sadness, I think of all the days and weeks I've spent here, and of the fishing companions now gone. I turn around to make a comment, but see only tree trunks and shadows. Leo, Harrieth, Birger, Solveig, Lennart and Flemming. Where are they now? The river water glistens in the evening light – but there is no response...
Barely back from Norway, we travel down to our former home town, Karlstad, to visit our friends Marianne and Per-Olof. The town is known for sunny weather, but not this time. We walk around in the old neighborhoods, visit the one time so popular dance hall, Sandgrund, now a gallery dedicated to the famous water colourist Lars Lerin. After a cup of coffee at NATURUM in lovely Mariebergsskogen, the city's lung, we stroll around some more. During my student years, I often sat by the little pond enjoying the peace, reading, drawing, feeding the squirrels and working on my novel which never was finished. In the background of the picture the old mill, which in an almost hypnotic way seem to lessen the time between past and present.
This summer has to be the wettest of all time. Behind constantly rain-streaked windows I find ample time for various orders for flies. The last two days, among others, small streamers bearing my personal signature, i.e. the orange colored hook bend. When the rain occasionally holds up, I don my boots and take a trip along the stream called Tuvån. Trees and bushes are dripping wet and the the water much too high, so dry flies are left untouched in the box. Instead, I allow a mini-streamer to drift under overhangs and and tufts of high grass along the bank. A few portion-sized fish, fried in real butter makes for really good eating!
One day when the sun, for once, shines from a clear sky, we take a drive down to the idyllic village of Åg. This is where at one time the iron ore was brought by sled or rail from the mine at Vintjärn. The old foundry has impressive masonry made from thousands of molded slag stone blocks that looks like green glass. We stop there to have coffee and rolls and listen to "Body and Soul," a group of jazz musicians who gracefully defy this summer's usual weather forecast by playing tunes like "Summertime" and "Blue Skies." Jenny Halvarsson, the cantor at Orsa church substitutes as vocalist, and her clear voice goes right into our hearts.
Late in the evening we are visited by a moose that hesitantly steps out into the meadow from the dark forest curtain. It is not very big, probably a year old calf. Some shag is torn off on her loin, possibly due to a wolf attack. My hunting friends are not particularly positive to a wolf pack that has established their territory in the area, and I detect a certain grudge here. As opposed to the hunters, though, wolves kill only for their survival.In the growing twilight the moose approaches the house, before it once again merges with the shadows. Look out for wolves and welcome back!
The hundreds of cherry trees in Vintjärn are in bloom like never before, for visitors a sight to remember. History has it that a manager of the mine at one time distributed to the employees shoots, saplings and seeds, which dutifully were planted on their own lots. Apparently the earth here is most favourable, birds have helped spread seeds and trees have taken root and shot up all over the village. Mid-month marked the opening of Anna and Per Skye's Indian Museum near Ryssjön, and along with this event a mini fair. The highlight of the day is a show of Timbersport, a competitive game, originating from New Zealand and Canada. Definitely not a game for weaklings.
This year we celebrate midsummer in peace and quiet. Rather than driving to Svärdsjö and the raising of the maypole, we sit in the shade of a cherry tree, enjoy the stillness and the lovely weather, drinking ice cold Skåne (= flavored strong liquor) and indulge in a delicious meal consisting of trout cured with salt, sugar and dill. From a distance we hear music from the old open air pavilion at Lenåsen, where every midsummer there is a rock music event in the middle of the woods. Campers with American vintage cars and attire from The 50's are entertained by groups such as Pat Miller and the Tailshakers, Emmy Lou and The Rhythm Boys and Sara Dee and the Roping Cowboys playing music from the same period. Nice beat, but nothing for old jazz freaks like ourselves.
Rainy days are aplenty. Disagreeable yes, but offers time to devote oneself to flytying. Depending on how particular you are, producing a popper may take a good while. I have a special feeling for popper-fishing for pike, and now and then I make a few poppers for personal use. This kind of fishing is exciting. The bite is like an explosion, and since the attack takes place on the surface, one can easily follow the entire event. A good and durable popper may be produced by cutting a piece of a net-floater in half, make a groove at the bottom, paint the body and finally tie in a suitable amount of feathers and bucktail to give life to the "fly". The popper offers a certain air resistance, and the size of the popper should be in proportion to rod and line weight.
Following the traditional celebration of Valpurgis Night on April 30, we begin the new month by taking on the usual spring chore – to provide wood for the winter. We take down several big alders, which are easy to saw and a pure joy to split, but of little value energywise. We need more birch, spruce, and pine. During the first few nights this month the landscape periodically bathes in a mystical, flickering light, as an unusally large and bright shining moon makes its course across the partly cloud-covered sky. A friend of mine explains the phenomena. With the climax on may 5th the moon passes the Earth closer than in several years. Therefore the moon appears to be 30 % lighter and 14 % larger than usual. I take this picture as our romatic neighboring planet occasionally peeks through the clouds.
Shortly after the ice break-up I launch my skiff and, during two or three evenings catch a few pike that linger near the spawning-grounds. No trophy pike, for sure – the biggest of about 3 kilos. A long period of hard winds, rain, and cold weather stifles the enthusiasm, and only after a couple of weeks do I make another try. One day at the end of the month I fish for pike with a big bushy "Lefty's Deceiver" on my leader. Suddenly a whitefish-hunting trout appears on the scene. It grabs the streamer-fly violently, and I am able to hook it well. On the scale it proves to have the same weight as crown princess Victoria's newborn daughter Estelle - just above 3.250 grams!
Vintjärn can brag about its very own geranium. It has been named "Vintjärn gammal" (=Vintjärn old) alternatively "Edwin", and is one of a kind. Edwin was an old man from Vintjärn, who enherited this geranium from his mother. It was discovered in connection with an inventory around the turn of the century 1800-1900. This particular geranium blooms abundantly, its flowers have a deep red color with a tinge of purple. Like most geraniums we use as house plants, it originates from one of the four geranium species that grow wild in South Africa.
Svärdsjö church is beautifully situated on a ridge near the lake, and we often visit there when we pass by. The original church in Svärdsjö built in the 1300s, was a simple stone building. The present church however, is richly decorated and we particularly appreciate the altarpiece. In 1716 governor Cedercreutz decided that the medieval altarpiece was too old-fashioned, and sculptor Erik Bergman was commissioned to make a new one. This was modelled from the church at Ore and on all sides decorated with beautiful foliage and ornaments. The following year, A. Resenberg from Falun painted the altarpiece and it has ever since been a source of comfort and edification for generations of farmers, loggers and miners in the district.
It's April and the weather is typical for this month. One day a blazing sun, next day heavy clouds and chilly winds. The trees are bare, the lakes are still frozen and the landscape is barren and desolate. We spend a couple of afternoons down at the lake, watching the dancing cranes and admire a pair of stately swans on a small patch of open water. Crawling on hands and knees I try to get a good picture, but the birds are shy in this environment and my camera, the size of a cigarette pack, is simply not good enough. Now, with the snow all gone, the result of last year's strip logging can be clearly seen across the lake.
On a bleak day we take a hike south of the village, crossing the sandy hills and follow Björhålsbäcken to the lakeside. The name is derived from “björ” (= beaver) and suggests that these small, energetic animals once lived in the creek and dammed it up. Recently, beaver have returned, and we find recent gnawing marks. Turning our attention to the hills, I remember from my childhood the lush meadows and gray barns on the slopes. Today the trees have reclaimed lost ground and grow more densely. We don't see much of the village from here, but the deserted head frame stands as a symbolic exclamation mark, proclaiming that the mining activities at Vintjärn are long ago relegated to history.
Now that the winter's gone, the earth hath
The snow lingers in canyons and on northern slopes. Meltwater makes bogs difficult to negociate, and streams and rivers are swelling. Our well water has taken on a pale green color and a rich taste of humus and chlorophyll. We don't drink it, of course, but pump thoroughly and wait for a healthier flow. The nights are still cold, the roads icy, and we are sure to endure more snow yet. However, ...the light has returned, the sun shows up more often and the woodpecker's energetic drumming on dry tree trunks indicates that a warmer season is approaching. As we open the door to the shed, we are greeted by a cloud of overwintered midges and newly awakened lacewings - a sure sign of spring.
On a day of brilliant sunshine and a nearly cloudless sky, we walk – slightly puffing, up Lenåsen hill looking out across miles and miles of rolling woodlands. The sun is warm and we rest a while on the slopes, enjoy the view and rejoice at the declining winter. It is refreshing to broaden the horizons after a long winter, which for my part has been quite isolated. Up here on the ridge, a wolf pack has roamed, and we find small piles of droppings in the wet grass. The droppings are full of hair, most likely from moose. No wonder, since three quarters of the wolves' winter diet consists of the easily caught moose calf.
During the Christmas holiday an ermine joined the household, and he has since struck terror in mice and other rodents around the house. He keeps me company. Always curious, but quick and hard to capture with the camera. Bibi comes home after two months in the US, and among other things, tells me about the spirited New Year's celebrations in New York, with streets full of happy people watched by unusually jovial policemen. Otherwise Bibi spent her time alternating between Austin, Baltimore and Boston. One late afternoon she is back in Vintjärn, encompassed by silence and the snow-covered forest. The contrast is striking, to say the least.
A few mild days toward the end of the month indicate that a warmer season is on its way. One day, mists rise from the valley, the road's icy surface becomes soft and the birch buds begin to turn violet before they burst open. After a windy and cold winter it is a relief to be able to take a stroll through the village without having to bundle up with thick layers of clothing, cover ears with a woolen cap and crouch in the gusty winds. Once more the snow shovel comes out, but the winter is over and the cold has lost its bite. Welcome lovely spring!
Ever since the village grocery store opened over a hundred years ago "Bofesten" has been celebrated on the 12th night after Christmas at Folkets Hus, the local community center. The store is no more, but the celebrations continue year after year thanks to some enthusiastic villagers. When I was growing up, Bofesten was one of the the highlights of the year. In the afternoon, amusements for the children around the Christmas tree, and later in the evening a motion picture and dancing for grown-ups. I take a cup of coffee and look around. Apart from an occasional former resident I don't know many people. It was different when I was a child. During my long exile I lost a whole generation of "Vintjärners".
The year turns, and already I begin to look
forward to ice-out and the first fishing excursion. From my friend Frank I
receive the wings from a grouse he shoots during toppjakt. This gives me a
chance to "tie" the Indian fly, Bone Fly, one of the oldest types of
artificial lures on the North American continent, perhaps the first streamer
in the history of fly fishing.
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