Escape Plan

Oh no, is this going to be a review of the terrible Stallone/Schwarzenegger movie from a couple of years back? Nope, although as we are talking about it, don’t tell anyone, I actually quite enjoyed it, a movie guilty pleasure in a throwback to the 80s sort of way. Let’s keep that to ourselves…

Two of our younger visitors this summer, early teens both, expressed how much they love western Canada, and one is planning to come back in her gap year – or gap life, as she’d have it – to stay for longer. The other lives in Canmore, has a busy life, but actually fancied the idea of a little place to retreat to. I thought of him earlier, when we hit the water one morning and paddled past this floating delight:IMG_20180731_095644

He was into the idea of cabins, and of going fishing, and I think this floating shed would be ideal! It wasn’t here before this summer, but I do remember seeing a very similar building drifting about in the channel just outside the outer harbour last autumn after a heavy storm. Has some enterprising soul salvaged and restored it? I hope it is the same shed, and I hope it is used for fishing.

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It’s a palace!

I’m still a bit hooked on the idea of having a little boat (you already do, it is your kayak – Mrs. PC) and moored a short distance from the dream floating cabin is this little beauty:IMG_20180731_100345

I enjoy bobbing about in between the boats and buildings, it seems to keep us young at heart. I like that young people aren’t totally devoted to electronic activities, and when they unplug and look up, they are captivated by outdoor pursuits and beautiful locations. There is still hope for the future…fullsizeoutput_645

Keeping it brief this week, as I’m off to raid the piggy bank, see if there’s enough for a floating fishing platform. (Nope, there’s not – Mrs. PC)fullsizeoutput_64a

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Tsawout Trails

A short piece about trails a short hike away from the Salt Spring cabin. We had to get out hiking before we forgot how, and staying near Tsawout Band lands meant we had some great trails to explore.

At the trailhead is a beautiful welcome and interpretive sign, inviting visitors to enjoy the land past the notice. If you follow this link, 13 Moon Calendar Sign, you’ll see a digital copy of the artwork and words – I have to say, the message is simple and clear, and more necessary than ever…

DSCF5328Our first afternoon in the woods was hot and humid, but under the canopy oh so green and lush. The trail was simple enough to pick out, sometimes rocky underfoot, sometimes grassy, and sometimes earthy, with changes in the terrain every few metres. Exposed slopes and clearings were bug free with a slight sea breeze. In these open areas, golden grass was almost like straw in the strong sun.IMG_20170720_174227Into the trees and away from the bluffs overlooking the sea, it was not as hot, the air was still and rather humid, with the whine of an occasional mosquito. I wasn’t bitten, so Mrs. PC was spared the whine of an old PlaidCamper.

IMG_20170722_164241Relative to steepness of slope, soil coverage and the presence of large rock outcrops, the trees were a mix of short and gnarled to tall and gnarled, growing in tight groups with dense undergrowth, or further apart with little brush beneath. Pacific Madrones, Garry Oaks, and Western Red Cedars – a wonderfully varied yet cohesive green, grey, rusty and yellow landscape to wander through (yup, I’ve been reading my tree books!)DSCF5333The Tsawout trails got us up and out in a series of wonderful hiking afternoons. Tramping through the woods, coming across little coves, stopping to admire views, tree shapes, and textures, it was a special place, and we had a very happy time exploring it.DSCF5339Salt Spring Island is a splendid location to be on holiday! One (or two?) more Salt Spring posts in the next week or so, and then we’ll have to leave, sniff.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend!

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Hard to leave…

Cabin fevered

Last weekend, we were holed up in a Yoho cabin. Not as fugitives – it was too late for that. The long reach of bacteria had caught up with us and we were suffering from students being overly generous with germs. This is a brief post, scribbled as I quietly recuperate…(He’s fine, it was nothing more than a cold – Mrs. PC)

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Cabin

Not being one to complain, I stoically sniffled and snuffled all through the weekend, bravely depleting the cabin stock of tissues. As I dealt, quite heroically, with my mysterious malady (it was a cold – Mrs. PC), Mrs. PlaidCamper quietly put me to shame by dealing with her far worse cold, um, quietly.

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A lovely back yard

Instead of getting out and about, we had to settle (quite happily) for gazing out of the windows into the woods, or at the falling snow, or at the misty mountains. Those of us that could see the mountains through watery eyes…(He had a cold – Mrs. PC)

Honestly, if you’ve read this far, thank you! If you’ve checked out already, I understand. I’m not one to complain.

dscf4373Eventually, using my iron will and enormous amounts of determination, I agreed with Mrs PlaidCamper that a gentle stroll around the town might – just – be manageable. (It was – just – a cold – Mrs PC)

We tottered through the tiny town, enjoying a break in the weather, the views, the clean air, and gingerly negotiating icy sidewalks. It looked like I was clinging to Mrs. PlaidCamper for support, but I was simply offering an arm. (??! – Mrs. PC)

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A grainy photo. Sorry.

With temperatures hereabouts bouncing up and down, it is hard to say if spring is really just around the corner, or if winter is going to cling on a little longer. Having courageously survived this medical mystery, this illness as yet unknown to science (a cold – Mrs. PC), I am hoping for a few more weeks of snowy fun, perhaps another month or two, before conceding that spring is here. You can be sure, either way, that I won’t be complaining about it.

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The house over the way belongs to Parks Canada. It’s a beauty – perhaps they’ll sell it to me, or employ me?

Anyway, a short post this week (I don’t want to go on about it, but I haven’t been well), thanks for reading, I hope you are well, and have a wonderful weekend!

All photographs this week were taken from the cabin or on our short walk around Field, BC. How I managed to carry the camera, lift it, get it in (almost) focus, and battle my ailments…(Only a cold, nothing more – Mrs. PC)

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It isn’t my fevered imagination – there is a ghostly something in the trees…

Feeling blue…

…down by the river. We got the riverside blues. Stompin’ snowshoe blues.

Actually, that’s not true, but I liked the way it sounded, as if an old PlaidCamper was going to write a song. (I think Bruce might have written a little something along those lines? About the river, not the snowshoes – although he probably could write a great snowshoe song if he wanted to…)

Anyway, we really were down by the river a few days back, and we got there on snowshoes. It was a cold, cold day, and getting colder by the minute as the sun dropped behind the mountains, but it wasn’t a problem. Keep moving, and you’ll keep warm. Mrs PlaidCamper is graceful on snowshoes, moving carefully across the surface of the snow, whereas I’m less graceful and more grateful. Grateful not to fall over as I lumber along. Lithe? Supple? Serene? Nope, not me, just happy to be there enjoying the sights and the light.

We caught sight of our dipper friend, splashing about in the fast flowing shallows, but he was too quick for me to get a shot, and it was enough of a delight to have seen him. He is master of that stretch of river. We saw him again the following day, and it’s getting to the point where we’ll be upset not to spot him. Mustn’t get greedy, but it’s ok to be hopeful!

Fading light, clear and clean air, sharp mountains etched against the darkening sky, and a hint of mist rising up from the river. Throw in a bottle of beer waiting for you back at the cabin, with a book by the fire, perhaps you didn’t stumble in snowshoes – or if you did, it was because it was getting dark – and that there is a fine winter afternoon.

So, no real blues, just the pleasant blues and greys we saw and the camera captured down by the river. A warm snowshoe workout on a freezing afternoon. Snowshoeing is fast becoming a favoured winter pastime for us. Fast? No, it slows you down (or maybe that might be my technique) but you don’t stop for long because moving keeps you warm.

dscn7378Oh yeah, it was life in the slow lane, and that’s pretty good. We had the riverside blues that lift you up. Don’t worry, I’m not going to write a song about it. Or sing. I’ll leave it there, all peaceful and with the faint hope The Boss might one day write that snowshoe song.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a song or a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

PS I turned 50 yesterday – might need a second bottle…

Silver, blue, and grey

Calm colours to enjoy during a frantic period of time. The past five days seemed rather long…almost without end…an endurance trial…(alright, so I’m exaggerating!)

Emerald Lake

A very short post this week – if this got published and you’re reading it, I must have somehow made it to the end of term! Most of the time I enjoy my job and the students I teach, but the final week before winter break has never been in my top ten of fun times. If you are lucky enough to be involved in education, then you understand. If you don’t, trust me, for this week only, you’re lucky enough not to be involved in education!

Fresh air

Our plan to prepare for the week was to spend last weekend in Yoho, chilling in a little cabin and taking a hike around beautiful Emerald Lake. Yes, again, and why not?! It’s different every time, and last week was no exception. The temperature climbed to a reasonable -12C, and that was good enough to layer up and get out.

Take next week off…

The freshest air, the squeaky snow underfoot, the astonishing silence when we stood still, and the silver, blue and grey of the landscapes all combined to make a memorable hike. It was just enough to keep an old PlaidCamper mentally charged and ready to face the week. Phew! Thank you, Emerald Lake. Natural magic, and we might have to head back out there soon…

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful weekend – if you’re lucky enough to be in education, isn’t this Saturday one of the best?! Enjoy it!

Squashed…

…but I don’t mean our spirits!

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The cloud will lift…
After recent political events, it would be easy (and understandable) to feel somewhat crushed, but that’s not going to help in the longer term. So my period of moping is now over, and it’s time to look up, be determined to focus on what is good and what is valuable all around us. An unpleasant event has come to pass, yet caring folks will continue to speak up and out against bigotry, and seek to find genuine solutions to real problems. I forget where I read it and who said it, but there was a commentary on recent events that said the answers are likely to be found in a series of small solutions instead of one giant fix. Well, the world does appear to be in one giant fix, that’s for sure, but good people will fight to produce the series of small solutions. After all, you have to hope…

– Yeah, alright, but why squashed, PlaidCamper?

Well, because my moping period found me back in the kitchen, a place I find great comfort in during the good times, and even greater comfort during the less good times. If this blog wasn’t OldPlaidCamper, it could have been OldFakeChefDude. I’m certainly an almost outdoorsman, and most definitely an almost chef. I’ve faked it and earned a (meagre) living in a few kitchens in the past. The stories I could tell (but won’t, because you probably enjoy eating in restaurants, and I don’t want to be arrested…)

– Yeah, alright, but why squashed, PlaidCamper?

img_20161103_170459I was cooking with squash! A comfort food if there ever was one, and one of my favourites. Roast it, steam it, mash it, sautée it, make soup from it, but eat it up, with all that vitamin goodness and colour on a plate. Mmm, squash. Acorn, butternut, crook neck, kabocha, pumpkin (least favourite), delicata, spaghetti, and more. Food list poetry? I think so.

There are so many ways to enjoy squash (my meatatarian brothers insist a squash is best enjoyed when left to rot atop a compost heap – food heathens! – although they always dig into the butternut and black bean chilli…) and here are two ways with squash that we’ve cooked recently:

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Camping! Only six months away…

PlaidCamper Parcels

(Really? Chef ego much? These kitchen primadonnas…)

This first one is great for if you’re camping. Get a good campfire going (glowing at the base) and keep it stoked.

Put diced squash, halved mushrooms, quartered shallots, whole almonds, broccoli florets, chilli flakes and a teaspoon of ground cumin onto a sheet of aluminum foil. Add a generous glug of good olive oil. Give it a mix and then fold up your foil into a parcel.

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Did I really take a picture of this? Yup!
You might want to double wrap it if the foil is the thin stuff cheapskates like me buy. False economy. Place on the hot metal plate or over the griddle. Turn the parcel from time to time to allow even cooking. Trust your sense of smell – you’ll know when it’s ready! Burn your fingers unwrapping the parcel (you won’t mind because it’ll taste so good) and enjoy the contents. Delicious campfire fare! dscf3791

The care and attention I’ve given to quantities and timings might be an indication as to why I’m not a chef any more. I can create and follow precision recipes, but mostly enjoy the slapdash approach. Closer to Jamie than Heston. To make up for the lack of detail in the first recipe – recipe?! – I’ll simply copy/paste the second (and add the link, because the other recipes on the page are also quite wonderful) from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall:

Pappardelle with squash and sage

Serves four.

About 750g squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into 2-3cm cubes
4-6 fat garlic cloves, skin on, lightly squashed 
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil 
75g walnuts, very roughly chopped (optional) not optional, Hugh, essential
250g pappardelle (or other pasta)
50g unsalted butter
15-20 sage leaves, cut into ribbons
Finely grated parmesan or hard goat’s cheese, to serve

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put the squash in a roasting tin, add the garlic and some salt and pepper, trickle over the oil and toss together. Roast for 45 minutes, stirring once or twice during cooking, until the squash is completely soft and starting to caramelise. Add the nuts for the last 10 minutes, taking care they don’t burn.

When the squash is about halfway cooked, bring a large pan of water to a boil, salt it well and add the pasta. Cook for the time suggested on the packet, then drain. While the pasta is cooking, heat the butter very gently in a small pan. When foaming, add the sage and cook over a low heat, without letting the butter brown, for three minutes. Turn off the heat.

Toss the sage butter, the hot squash and walnuts into the pasta – add any pan juices, too, as well as the garlic, provided it’s not too burned. Season to taste and transfer to warmed dishes. Finish with more pepper and serve with parmesan for people to help themselves.

A great one to try out over the coming winter at a cabin. Or at home. The recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall Squash Recipes – go on, follow the link, read the others, you’ll be glad you did.

Old Hugh has some amazing recipes. I first heard about him many years ago when a friend was telling me about roadkill pie. Retching noises. Personally, if I ran over a squash I’d be mortified, but it could be worse. Even back then, falling wildlife populations in the UK meant you’d most likely run over an unfortunate hedgehog. There are recipes for clay baked hedgehog, but you’d really rather not…right? Stick with the squash.

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Glass more than half full (an anti-moping technique and we all deserve it…)
Well, not a hugely outdoorsy post this week – thanks for your patience – but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed sharing some anti-moping activity we’ve been engaged in.

Thanks for reading, please feel free to share a recipe or anti-moping technique, and have a wonderful weekend!

As an extra treat for the curious-minded, here is a link to a fun article about Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (and it mentions his connections to roadkill cuisine, but that really isn’t what he’s about!) More about Hugh FW

Beer bottle tops (and bullets)

Huh? To be more accurate, not that I know much about these things, it’s beer bottle tops and bullet casings. Or is that shell casings? I’m way out of my comfort zone here (well, not entirely, I might have opened a beer bottle or two every now and again…)

I was almost cleaning out our car the other day, not because it needed it (but it does), more because when I was driving along, each little bump in the road caused a jingling and tinkly sound somewhere near the dash. Mechanically minded as ever, I ignored it until I couldn’t take any more, and tried to track down the cause. Turns out there was a small pile of (brass?) bullet casings and rusty bottle tops in the change compartment atop the dash.

Clean this car!

PlaidCamper has guns and ammunition? I hear you ask with a gasp! PlaidCamper has bottle tops? Perhaps less of a gasp there…

No! No guns for me. I grew up in Britain, back when the police were armed with those funny hats and asked you nicely to stop being unlawful or they’d be forced to ask you again. Not much of a gun culture, although I do realize things have changed since then. Nevertheless, no guns for me. With my recent eyesight history, it would be foolish indeed – I’m a danger to myself and those around me simply wielding a spork. They’re not that user-friendly you know.

Little Bear, early morning

Anyway, where did I get the bullets? I picked them up. The beer bottle tops? I picked those up too. From the ground, and no, I didn’t drop them. They were strewn on the grassy area in front of Little Bear cabin. We’re not talking one or two accidentally missed items. Over a few days, I picked up hundreds of casings. I kept thinking that I must have found them all, and then I’d spot another, and another. Don’t ask Mrs PlaidCamper, but it’s possible I may have gotten a touch obsessed about finding them. At that point in time, post eye surgery, I was really quite happy at even being able to spot them. But if I could spot them, well wouldn’t that mean the shooter (is that the correct term?) could find them? Still, it kept me quiet, and Mrs PC finished a couple of long novels.

Is it dangerous here?

It did get me thinking, why all the bullets up there at Little Bear? Was the Parks Service not letting on how dangerous it could be? There was the usual literature and warnings about bears, and I shouldn’t (and honestly don’t) make light of the risks with animal encounters, but it is called Little Bear cabin. Not Rabid Slavering Bears Only Want To Eat You So Bring Your Guns cabin. We’d still stay there even if they change the name. Bottle tops and bullets. Hmm. Beer and bullets? I don’t know, is it just me…?

Put ’em up! (Your feet, you must be exhausted…)

I tried to imagine the scene when the previous gun toting occupants were at the cabin. Beer in one hand, gun in the other, whirling this way and that way, blasting at anything moving. Anything moving? While we were there, that would have been swaying trees, crickets, a hiker or two, and the occasional small squirrel. Oh, and many – unarmed, though – birds flying overhead and from tree to tree. Plus, there was a deer that gave me a funny look one morning, but probably because I was peeing behind the woodshed, being too lazy to tramp down to the outhouse so early. (Oh c’mon, give me a break. I was unarmed, and there might have been squirrels about…) Well, on that evidence, best lock and load then.

Squirrel’s eye view

I don’t want to get into the whole gun control debate (because what’s to debate when the solutions are so obvious – you know, fewer guns, more sporks?) I don’t understand shooting, although I know many enjoy the sport. Fair enough, fire lead balls into straw mounted paper targets and pretend you’re ready to defend yourself (maybe in the unlikely event of a paper target or clay pigeon invading your home?) I certainly don’t understand the sport behind hunting animals for fun. It can’t be that much fun for those gangs of scary squirrels and herds of deadly deer, or even fair, not if they can’t shoot back.

I’d best stop soon, and get back to cleaning out the car. Just one request before I do? The noise pollution is bad enough, but if you do feel the need to be heavily armed with beer and bullets, and to blast away because animals are out there, could you at least pick up your trash? Please? Yes? Thank you!

Pick ’em up!

And thank you for reading! As ever, please feel free to leave a comment (are you proficient with a spork?)  or share a story, and have a wonderful weekend!

Time to reappear!

Last week was about disappearing, so to balance that out, it’s time to reappear. Our break is about over, and we’ve had a very pleasant summer. I wrote last week about the temporary need to check out, suspend membership of the human race, and it did reflect how I felt at the time of writing. However, having had the good fortune to be able to sit, read, write and reflect with few disturbances the past week, I thought that this week I’d share one or two of the great people we’ve met on our recent travels. They were previously unknown to us, but each interaction affirmed that people are, by and large, pretty decent – it seems that when we escape group or mob mentality, humans get it right…

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Safe to pitch here?

Where to start? How about Daryl, the tree surgeon we met a few weeks ago at Green Point campground on Vancouver Island? When we arrived at our designated spot, a large silver pick up full of chainsaws, ladders, ropes and climbing equipment was blocking the entrance. Daryl came over and introduced himself, explaining that he and his work partner were spotting trees, ensuring that those with weak roots, rotten cores, or loose branches weren’t about to come tumbling down on an unsuspecting camper:

“Don’t worry, we’re talking about in the next couple years. That said, don’t pitch your tent there, don’t tie a tarp on this one, or that one, and maybe not that one either!”

Looking around, we could see Daryl had been busy, with little blobs of red dye on trees that were going to require action. It was good to know he was out there keeping things safe. We stood and chatted for a while. Daryl loved his work, and he loved living on Vancouver Island.DSCN6998

“I hardly ever leave the island – why would I? My wife and I like to go kayaking and camping most weekends, and it’s all within a couple of hours of our home. It’s all here!”

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It’s all here!

Indeed it is. Daryl was knowledgeable, friendly, and not too busy to stop and say hi and talk about what he was doing. He had a good sense of humour, too. As he was leaving:

“You know how I said these trees were okay for two years or more? Well, if it gets windy, that’ll change. You might want to move your tent. Or not. It should be alright. Sleep well!”

Funny guy…

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Too early for a cold one?

When we got to Little Bear last week, we’d about unpacked our kit, and were just wondering if it was too early for a cold one when we heard voices drifting down from further up the mountain. People? At “our” cabin and on “our” mountain? Oh no – we were meant to be disappearing…

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Bozeman is down there

A young boy, about twelve or so, and his grandparents hiked into view. They waved “hi” and apologized for disturbing us. They seemed surprised the cabin was occupied. It turned out the grandfather hadn’t been up this way for more than a decade, and had wanted to show his grandson and wife the cabin, and the tremendous view across the valley. They pointed out distant mountains they’d hiked with their grandson earlier in the summer. The couple had first come to Bozeman from Minnesota in the 1960s, to work at the university:

“And we never left. We love it here, working and now retired. This area is special. Can we show our grandson the inside of your cabin?”

Well of course. The boy was completely taken with the cabin, eyes and face lit up with excitement. He was still young enough not to be too cool about old stuff. It was clear he hero-worshipped his grandparents, hanging on their every word. When we told them where we’d booked the cabin and the modest cost, the grandson looked absolutely thrilled when his grandfather suggested he might come up sometime:

“When you’re a little older, with your own friends, for a few nights?”

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Getting late

It was late in the afternoon, and they had to get back to their vehicle and head down to Bozeman. Waving farewell, they disappeared from view, but we heard what they were saying:

“Isn’t it great that old cabin is being used? What a place! We gotta come back sometime!”

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That old cabin

Isn’t it great that there are plenty of friendly folks out and about? It’s easy to be suspicious, or wary, particularly when you are relatively far from home. It’s easy to generalize (that’s why I do it!) about how humanity is going to hell in a hand basket, especially if you take all the bad news stories as the only stories out there. But that’s not always true – it’s just that the good stories don’t always get heard or the same air time. Sometimes, having a little time out to reflect can help me remember that.

Thanks for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

“A disappearance is in order…”

We’ve been spending the week at Little Bear cabin, Montana, disappearing for a while. Our days have been fast paced; books, small wanderings, sitting, books, sitting some more, and maybe a beer by the fire. Maybe.

One book I’ve really enjoyed is “Canoe Country” by Roy MacGregor. It’s a delightful account where MacGregor argues the canoe made Canada, and his argument is supported with tales and anecdotes about well known and less well known paddlers in Canadian history. If you’re even slightly intrigued by the canoe, you’ll like the book. Sitting outside a cabin up a mountain, it was like catnip for an old PlaidCamper. Mrs PC has been right to point out we have nowhere to store a canoe…

In a book full of memorable passages and quotes, here is one MacGregor uses that particularly appealed:

Every so often a disappearance is in order. A vanishing. A checking out. An indeterminate period of unavailability. Each person, each sane person, maintains a refuge, or series of refuges, for this purpose. A place or places, where they can, figuratively if not literally, suspend their membership in the human race.”  (John A. Murray, Colorado naturalist)

Most of the time, being a member of the human race is just fine, and I maintain that most people are well intentioned and propose no ill will to their fellows. However, the weight of bad news headlines prefacing endless appalling atrocities and scandals are apparently the only stories worth telling, and this can take a toll. Thank goodness for Little Bear, and all the other natural refuges available to those lucky enough to reach them. And perhaps there’s still time this summer, for those so inclined, to find a new place or two – maybe even traveling there by canoe…(don’t worry, Mrs PC, we’ll rent it!)

Thanks for reading, and have an enjoyable weekend!

Chopping, stacking, and drying

Reading a book about firewood whilst sitting by a wood stove is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two. Especially when you are feeling sorry for yourself (I was) because some lovely student was overly generous with their germs. Fortunately for Mrs PlaidCamper, I suffered in stoic silence. Not true, I was simply engaged in the book she gave me, and it has certainly confirmed my almost outdoorsman status. Still so much to learn!

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A good read
If you can get hold of a copy, you might like to read “Norwegian Wood – chopping, stacking, and drying wood the Scandinavian way” by Lars Mytting. I know, sounds a bit nerdy, yet this slim volume is quite wonderful, and strangely heartfelt, given the title. The approach is sometimes scientific, sometimes mathematical, but the overall effect is lyrical and philosophical. Apparently, the book has been a bit of a hit, striking a chord – a cord? – with a wide audience. Could it be that some are crying out for a simpler life? Maybe. It kept me quiet for a while.

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Keeping warm
To the book. Until relatively recently, almost all humans have warmed themselves with fire, and the primary fuel was wood. This necessitated a set of skills and knowledge fundamentally attached to being outdoors. In many places, the need for these skills has diminished in the last 60 years, with the development of other heating and energy sources. Perhaps more of us need to rediscover the skills and possibilities of wood for a fuel. Mytting’s book explores our changing relationship with firewood through pictures, poetry, history, and anecdotes that delight and engage. (If you don’t have a tear in your eye after finishing old Ottar’s story – his woodpile tale bookends it all – I’d be amazed, and you’d be cold…)

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Woodpile tales
Mytting details how wood grown for heating can be one part of a national energy plan. It isn’t a magic bullet, but he is persuasive on how burning wood is comparatively environmentally friendly. Modern stoves are very efficient, and there are regions where wood growth supply can outstrip demand. It can’t work everywhere, but the ideas are intriguing. Large (or small) scale tree farms seem preferable to large scale power stations, nuclear plants, hydroelectric projects, and all the associated infrastructure required to deliver the energy. It’s not romantic or beautiful like an old growth forest, but it is clean. And no, I’m not advocating mass logging/deforestation to heat our homes.

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Wood stove detail
The book isn’t all about national energy policy and planning, although the ideas presented are thought-provoking. Much of the book is more personal in nature. There’s an amusing foreword detailing the various types of wood chopper. Are you the stoic type? The neurotic hoarder? The poet? The standard bungler? How about desperado, melancholic or psychopath? If you’ve ever had to chop wood then you know there’s a little of each in all of us. Or if you’re me, quite a bit of the bungler.

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Dry
When we lived in the western Perigord, the downstairs of our house was heated by two wood burning stoves, one in the kitchen, and one in the living room. In winter, we’d live in the kitchen most of the day, let the stove burn low, and then dash to the front room for the evening. Those stoves were efficient! If only I’d been as efficient. 

The first autumn/winter, I enjoyed stacking the delivered firewood and chain sawing and chopping through the colder months. Manly work! Wielding dangerous equipment with purpose, skill, and aplomb. Or so I thought in my happier moments. The truth was, the novelty wore off by the end of each winter, and the enthusiasm didn’t really return with the next wood delivery the following September. I quite enjoyed the sense of purpose and productivity, but sometimes it seemed endless.

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To be wielded with purpose (and care)
Having a ton of logs dropped onto your front yard on a sweltering September day isn’t too bad. Not when your Dad and brother are visiting, and likely to help shift and stack it. Except they suddenly developed all manner of ailments and a pressing need to prop up the local bar…hmm. I know, firewood is great. It warms you three times – chopping, stacking and burning. My planning (and help) was all wrong!

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Where did the helpers go?
Having read Mytting, I know now that I should have received the delivery in spring, and then split and stacked the wood to get it dry over the summer – in artfully and scientifically arranged woodpiles (you’ll admire the many photographs of woodpiles Mytting has included. No, really, you will!) I honestly hadn’t given much thought to storing the wood. I was pleased enough to have arranged to get any at all given my terrible schoolboy French. Still, once you have it, all firewood burns the same, doesn’t it? Wrong again, PlaidCamper. See Mytting. I was the bungler, making mistakes that would get a seasoned Scandinavian feller hot under the collar. Although I have to say my homemade sawhorse was a thing of beauty – or perhaps splendid utility over beauty, but I promise you, it worked. Mind you, I never took a photograph (or patented the “design”…)

On to the hardware. If you read it, and you don’t already have them, you’ll be off looking at chain saws and axes (even if you don’t need one, or is that just me?) Axes! The names in the book are poetry: Oyo, Hultafors, Gransfors, Wetterlings, Fiskars and Vipukirves.

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A little cabin…
“Norwegian Wood” made me miss my wood chopping days. It would have been wonderful to have had some of the knowledge and skills back then. Still, as an almost outdoorsman who generally prefers to look forward, I now feel better prepared than ever, and maybe one day in the future I’ll be back in regular wood chopping action, heating a little cabin and getting it all done the Scandinavian way!

I’ll finish with a quote about the smell of a woodpile Mytting recites from Hans Borli’s “With Axe and Lyre”:

“It is as though life itself passes by, barefoot, with dew in its hair…When the veil finally starts to fall, the scent of fresh wood is among the things that will linger longest…”

Thanks for reading! Are you a chopper of wood? If so, what type are you? Please feel free to share a story or leave a comment, and keep your guy ropes secure.