City

I knew the inevitable would eventually bubble to the surface, and it has been since leaving Ontario, that I have actually spent more than a couple days in a city, but now I am here in Malmö, in the Scania region of Sweden, healing and resting in the nest of a romantic female partner. This is of course a vastly different landscape and routine than I am used to, though I have passed through a few of the worlds famous cities during my travels in the last few months, namely Vancouver, Nanaimo, Reykjavik, Copenhagen, Roskilde, Oslo, and Stockholm. I would never choose to live in any of these places permanently but have found pleasure among the crowd on more than one occasion.

Malmo, Sweden

The first thing I did as is routine in any new place is finding my bearings, where is the local meat monger, and health food stores, mapping out some walking paths, and the local saunas (these are numerous in Europe), and even the flotation centers, if I happen to seek some sensory deprivation treatment. My time will by no means be spent only indoors, but instead I will be taking most of my explorations inside myself, rather than the external environment. There are some historic landmarks in this part of Sweden that still yet attract my attention like the various historic iron age monuments, and foteviken viking village, museums, as well as some areas of natural beauty on the coast, but my focus is now turning towards to mind activity, my personal studies of runology, and reading of the icelandic/norse poetry, meditation and fitness, and attaining a proper diet regime once again. I aim to bring my health and primal abilities back to the level I had from the winter. Several months of demanding farm work and incessant travel have left my skeleton creaking and moaning like the wooden shacks of old fishing villages.

Its not all bad, and being in the city, adapting to an entirely different geometry of architecture will give me space to train in an urban environment, work on my parkour, and restock my personal travel gear, as I am trying to build an entirely new nomadic living set up for when I go back to tent living. I also have more time to journal, and write of some of my experiences in Scandinavia thus far. I will only be in the city until early September, then it’s back to the black Irish soils, to work farm again, probably I will end up milking cattle for awhile, but this is yet to be carved out. I feel comfortable with company again, after many miles on my own hooves. In the meantime I am reading and listening to some of the old Icelandic sagas, currently studying Njals saga.

A man needs his woman to lie next in the night after his time in the world, its part of the heroic journey of one’s own mythology. I recently viewed a film that struck a deep chord in my spirit about a man named Baldr who went away from his clan to gather secret knowledge of other culture, only to be met with a hostile neglection when he returned. He became the avatar of the living tradition and transferable society, it purveyed the importance of the oral story telling, and preservation of information. This is where I find myself now, gestating several years of cultural feedback, sitting with it, and sharing it with others who have not been able to travel as I have.

Gamla Uppsala Utiseta & The Secrets in the Moss

What follows is a journal account of a highly personal experience at the Kungshögarna (Burial Mounds) at Gamla Uppsala.

A man without a hamingja is a mere mortal, as good as cattle they say in the Sagas. For a man to seek the Gods, he must enter the mound, and commune with that which never truly dies. The legend of our religion, it’s heroes and heroines lies buried but not forgotten. The last stronghold of this heathen faith was at the cultic center at Gamla Uppsala, where every nine years, the Ting of all Swedes (allra Svía þing) was held, and nine of every head were sacrificed in a special grove. The Vikings would also seek favor from the Gods and Goddesses in return for these sacrifices. This ancient paradigm mirrors the ur-ritual of Óðinn, giving his self, to a more improved and updated version of his Self, and his Tribe. On the mounds there is an ancient dead ash, with tree rings numbering in the hundreds. At the time of it’s growth, the sea in Östra Aros (Gamla Uppsala) was higher, and there were many natural reservoirs of water here. I believe this could have been the ancient ash. ‘Next the tree roots were the Rabenbrot mushrooms, said to grow where a man had been hung. Strange and convincing dreams came to me, as I lay in my tent on the first night next to the mounds in a nearby nature reserve. Dreams of wandering the barrows in a haze, making etchings of the stones with charcoal and moss, rubbing them on every surface, onto vellum paper, and revealing a lyndworm of runes, and barely legible but clear runic staves, as well as the pictures of men in procession, beast heads, and Christian symbols. This happened in the subconscious, and the next day after examining the stones, which appeared to be nothing more than rock deposits left from the last ice age, did actually show these runes, animals and men! Confirmation for the curators at the museum grounds confirmed this for me, and I was told there were several of these stones in the vicinity that were not studied, or moved that were unknown to the public. The grey blue mosses lining the shallow trenches of the stones effaced :Runes: not gone but barely readable.

The mounds grew in obsession as I strolled patiently around them, and something kept me off them, an ancient code of respect and honor, the sun was still high. These menhirs that obfuscate the secrets of the never dead were of deep intrigue. The plaques erected near the base of the mounds spoke of Kings and Women found within, but was it instead the Gods images themselves? I would have to find this out for myself, for this was Valhöll itself, the hall of the slain. The sacrificial tree grew on the dolmen, with it’s roots growing into the well of Urðr, from the river of Fyris. I knew from the Ravens of my mind, that it had been time. 9 years since I had become conscious of the existence of Uppsala, thousands of miles on this heathen pilgrimage, and I now stood at the central axis of our heathen religion! I needed a heiti, and hamingja. I sought to be marked by the Gods on this night, given a weave in the eternal tapestry of the Norns. I knew I would lie in utiseta on these hills this night, and I would either be cast back to Miðgarðr a mere man, or given the honor of a name and a purpose.

Dusk fell, and Thor’s rain pettered the dark heath, Skaði’s winds bent the grass in uniform, and the clouds took on a shade the skin on Hel, but a calm resisted the night, and I sat at my tent, waiting to be informed by the Runes. A man must visit the mounds to learn from the Norns, impersonating the God of Death, he must separate his Lík from his Sál and ride the wooden stead down to Hel. He must carry a taufr of his own, in this case, a braid of my longest hair wrapped in the grass of the mound. Then sit in silence, until he is let in…

Taking courage from the solitude, I ingested the five or six grams of Icelandic psilocybin mushrooms I had left, and waited for the effects to take course. Making my way to the mound in patient stride, I approached and entered.

‘It is time to speak from the seat of the High One,
hard by the Well of Honor,
I saw and was silent, I saw and pondered,
I listened to the speech of men’There are the Maidens, all things knowing
three in the hall which stands beneath the tree
One is named for Honor, the Second the Coming,
The Third, who engraves on tablets
They lay down the law, they choose out life
they speak the fate of the sons of men’

No turning back now, the mushroom works it’s way into my body and I feel a disconnection from the reasoning mind. The lamp lights swagger with shadows on cow fields, and the birch trees sway in a melancholic dance. I meet a Dís in my intoxication, and I remember. ‘He must pass their tests, he must answer their riddles, understand their secrets, and know the true meaning of their sacred verses. He must be chosen by them in order to be reborn again’. The hamingja must be earned, here and now, rightfully claimed from the judgement of the Norns, earned from the rites of Honor in the world of men. The valuables of the burial mound are mine to know, and I remember…

I remember the shining sanguine Sun
the frozen forests and fallen leaves,
and the hollow hill under the sky.

I remember the complex cold caverns,
the long tranquil tunnels
and the large underground lakes.

I remember the dim depths of the Earth,
the lucid lady in the light
and her sacred stanza.

I remember the bright beast in her boat,
the tall troll telling her tales,
and the honey in the haunted hollow.

I remember the protected password,
the secret soothing symbol
and the old Oðal objects.

I remember the red runes on the rock,
the spell of seeing being sung,
and the bold opening up of the beautiful burrow.I remember the coming of man reborn,
the birth of Baldur the bright,
the return of a world that was woefully lost.

I come down, trembling, shaking, cold, and hungry. Bound to eternity, I have passed this test. Váli has seen to my recovery, and I saunter back to my tent. I look back at the mounds, and remember my ancestors, the kin of my folk, and the high ones, their last home in Miðgarðr. Here they were, when the new religion imposed, and the Vikings made blót for the Gods. They buried them here so we can remember too, where they fought and sacrificed, and celebrated and lived again, for the last time, and each and every day. Dying and being reborn with each sun! The webs were spun, and I could merely find the strands that let back to the center of the Hagal matrix. The spiritual light was emitted with the warm runs of Sunna’s gaze, and life went on, but not as before. Ásgarðr and Folkvang are not heavenly realms but are right here on earth, for those who can see, but only for those with hamingja. It knows no law except that on consequence, and obeys no impulse except that of nature. It is a sweeping world force set free upon man and woman, left to work itself out in the universe. It renders the events of life as inevitable as the Sunrise.


Where do your roots go? and where do your branches grow?
May I continue to sit with Saga in her hall of stories, and sing to my own mythology…
Hail the Old Gods! Her ék em Gróa.
:RtR:

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Heathen Pilgrimage

This one has been kept a bit secret for awhile but in traditional fashion I would like to write here a little about my recent foray into the world. This time on a self styled heathen pilgrimage though the whole of Scandinavia, from Iceland to Faroe Islands, Denmark onto Sweden and Norway, Gotland and Finland. This will be the first part of a several chapter diary of my experiences through some of these countries, some will remain only spoken in the oral tradition to those I meet along the way, for I see no purpose in documenting every minute detail. The focus of this trip is to visit sacred sites, cultural landmarks, Runestones, Viking settlements, ancient ruins, and Iron/Viking age museums, to learn and experience as much as I can.

On the Danish chapter, my heathen foray began in Copenhagen as do most trips, I stayed with some old acquaintances along the canal. I was to meet an artist at a local tattoo parlor for a tattoo of the runic futhark, but this fell through, so I was not in the city for long. The next day I traveled to the open air museum in Lejre. Here volunteers lived in different periods re-enacted villages, from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, and Viking period. A traditional lifestyle was brought to fruition in the open heath of the countryside. This was set near a few ship barrows and the burial mound of the Egtved girl.  It was fascinating to be standing on the grounds that this young girl was once buried, her body now lies in the Copenhagen museum. Several modern rune and pagan stones were carved in the landscape. A farm with traditional livestock like heritage pigs and boar also existed here. I met a father who was teaching his young son the art of smithing, and met other modern day Vikings who travel to different villages like myself.

From here I took a train to Slagelse and Hyllinge to walk at the Trelleborg Fortress on the island of Zealand. This was ordered by Harald Bluetooth in 980 to be constructed. The circle fortress would have kept 16 longhouses within its bounds, and it is the best preserved of the other Trelleborg that exist in Denmark and Sweden. It has been fully excavated, so I had the chance to see the relics of the foregone place, lain in the ground for hundreds of years. Seeing the skeletons of actual Vikings that lived, raided, farm, and loved is something I can barely wrap my head around, seeing their weapons and ships is another thing but their bodies, and for that matter, those of their animals is a truly connecting experience. In the higher mounds, horsemen were found, while there may have been Christian influence in the smaller graves. One woman carried pearls, game stones, a wooden casket and a bronze bucket. Several domestic items were also found like whetstones, utensils, combs, scissors, needles, locks and keys. It only shows, that our lifestyle is not so different. Some of the men in the graves were even from what is now Poland! This Trelleborg was known as a stop of Ibn Fadlan on his journey out of the east, and naturally marked a place of extreme curiosity for me since readings Ibn’s account of the Russiyah.

The Roskilde fjord was my next sojourn, but before this I took a side journey to Faxe, a place known for it’s brewery and lime quarry, but less know for the mythology behind the name. In Norse mythology Faxe means the horse’s mane, while Skinfaxi and Hrímfaxi are the horses of the day (dagr), and they pull the chariots of the day, while his mane lit up the sky and midgard. The name of Faxe comes all the way back from a poem called Vafþrúðnismál, but I digress, there was no Viking presence in this town that I know of, but I spent one night at a lime quarry before getting back to Roskilde. During the afternoon, I met some of the tradesmen working in the boatbuilders guild who were re-constructing the Viking ships at the harbor, then I was able to go out into the fjord on a sailing in a replica clinker built ship, seating fourteen, while rowing and gaining some experience about working the mast. The museum located here also housed five original Viking ship remnants, the infamous Skuldelev’s, which were sunk into the fjord to prevent access from a raid on Roskilde. There are 9 other ships ranging from the Iron age and medieval age found in further excavations. They were ranging from the clinker war ships, cargo boats to simple fishing skerries. Roskilde was of course a Viking trade town in league with other Scandinavian cities and foreign ports like Birka, Trelleborg, Ribe, Bergen and Dublin.

This marked the first part of my Danish adventure in the island of Zealand, but I am dreaming up further travels in Odense and western Denmark for the future, to visit such towns like Jelling, Jutland, Aarhus, Ribe and Hedeby. Next time I will talk about my travels in Uppsala and Skane in Sweden.

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A Walk in the Faroe Islands

The last time I saw Torshavn, I was on a ferry headed to Hirtshals Denmark, and I was not allowed to get off the boat, this was just a docking stop, it was a cold 5 am, and the rains were falling over the village, I would have to wait another year before I had the opportunity to step off the gangway, and claim the Faroe Islands to my travel itinerary. This time I was traveling with a friend from Australia, whom I met in Canada. She was also touring Scandinavia, a Europe virgin, so it was rewarding to both be experiencing this country for the first time.

Our first night was dreary and grim, after having spent one day and one night at sea, I couldn’t sleep, so I was looking forward to some decent rest in the tent when we went ashore. This didn’t happen. The cheap material of the tent leaked water like broken skin does blood. We chose to set the tent up near the lighthouse right at Thor’s harbour, which was idyllic enough, privacy and seclusion, close to the sea, darkness, but alas, I woke up in a literal lake of water that had flooded the tent and my sleeping bag, not a good start, so completely soaked to the bone, I waded out of the shelter, and roamed the streets of Torshavn looking for an awning or early morning cafe where I could take refuge…

The rest of the trip was not so miserly as this, in fact it was rather comfortable, so what follows are the stories of two walks in the Faroe Islands. I had decided to take a hostel at a highpoint of the village for the next two nights, though surrounded in fog, you would never know you were about the center of Torshavn. The Summartonar festival was underway downtown, and after getting my bearings in the cobbled pathways, and winding roads, I leisurely paced through Tinganes. Every house with low lying roofs, grown a foot thick with turf grass and wildflowers, one would expect goats to graze on such rich earth. The traditional matte black walls, red door, and white window panes, and the stone walkways between the hof, this was like a picture of my future home, and I had waited years to be here. I continued my walk through the town, and was able to catch a concert from Yggdrasill and Kristian Blak, the night coming to a close, I climbed the misty path back to hostel past old wooden houses, and sheep fields. The next day was Torsfest, and to my delight, the two names I have wanted to see for years, namely Tyr and Eivor were performing on the same day, though tickets were sold out, I was able to sneak in from one of the side gates before any of the bigger bands came to stage, so I was able to witness Eivor sing a full set. The rain came down in torrents, and it would still be 6 hours until Tye would come on, so I opted for not standing at the festival freezing without any cold weather gear. I knew they were touring Europe as well, and I would be attending Midgardsblot with Enslaved, Skuggsja and Wardruna in a month. In the morning, I stepped into the Domkirkja to see Gudrid Hansdottir, and spent the evening by the port, and walking in the sculpture park.

After a restful slumber, I packed my gear and talked to a biker from Denmark over coffee, then head out on the road and started hitchhiking. This was really very simple in the Faroe Islands, and I never waited longer than 3 minutes for a ride, in this case it was the second car. By this time I was alone, and my friend had continue her travels. On the ride, I met another girl from Australia, and two guys from England and Holland, they had all met in the hostel the day before, and now we were four from different countries. They told me they were headed to Gásadalur, a small cliffside village with a waterfall that tumbles off the edge straight into the ocean. The foss poured from the lush greenery, as I quaffed dark ale in the same fashion. We then headed to the port, the Australian girl and the Englishman were to catch a boat out to Mykines (proncounced mitch-en-es) by the locals. This was a famous island known for its bird life, guillemots and puffins and several rare nesting species exclusive to this island. Unfortunately the boat was cancelled due to storm. People have been known to get stuck on the island because of the weather, so instead we made way for Bosdalafossur, another waterfall that plummeted into the sea, on the edge of a high plateau, emptying from a river that was right beside a cliff, making for an extremely interesting panoramic vision. This spot where it fell was called Trælanípan, a place where the Vikings threw their worn out slaves. It it reached from the Midvagur village, along a hike through a feral sheep field. The bird cliffs are comparable with those in Vestmanna in my opinion, and for those with vertigo, here is a chance to overcome it. We walked for a few hours here, taking in the sites of stones polished by running water, and the many intriguing sheep varieties, some appearing to have black mask markings. I ended up staying in a different hostel on the island of Vagar this night with my new friend from Holland, and we traded sagas from our travels.

The second of my walks was in Vestmanna, after walking nearly the full way to a small bay Viking village with the remains of an old settlement. I met a local who picked me up and we talked about landholding, farming and life in the Faroe Islands. Before leaving Sandavagur I tried to gain access to the church to view the runestone, but alas the priest was not in. I asked a woman walking in the cemetary where he lived and we walked to his house, still no answer, so I didn’t get to see it, but instead made my way to the Iceland wax Viking museum in Vestmanna. I was really impressed by the displays and stories learned of the heritage from Faroe Islands, I continued through the town, and walked in between the lonely roads, viewing the bay from the high points, and observing the life of this out of the way place, humbling myself to my placemark on the map. Again, the sky brooded with the dark egg of rain, and I headed back to the refuge of the hostel. In a few hours I was off again, to the solitary airport of Vagar, a one track runway, on my way to Kobenhavn, It was a fast four days here in the Faroe Islands but I only scratched the surface of the rune stone so to speak, the rest is yet to be carved into place.

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Organic Camping Tents for an Organic Lifestyle

So, I am on the hunt for an organic camping tent, because like most travelers who are used to sleeping out in the woods, I am stuck with the in-organic, brightly colored, chemically laden, plastic tents that easily break down, rip, and cause all sorts of problems to the environment, both to produce and to use. I detest this method of living, not the camping itself, but spending my nights inside this claustrophobic structure, while the morning suns rays emit harmful air into the tent for those who dare sleep in, while the polyester walls leak with rain, and cause a tumult of wind flapping in the slightest breeze. There must be alternatives beyond the MEC and Fjallraven higher end brands, who are also using the same materials, are there any fellow nomads or travelers out there who know?

I know there have been limited tents made by Vaude a German company that produced a high quality cotton tent, then a Middle Eastern company that used bamboo poles and organic canvas, I have also seen festival tent designs with a front entering design and canvas roll, and an Irish tent made from sustainable cork, but both of these were only designs, not actual tents on the market. If anyone knows of some non fire-retardant, non-chemical, natural color, organic material and lightweight tents for single or couple camping, please write to me. Until then I will keep dreaming of a beeswaxed natural hemp fiber tent with bamboo poles and sky windows that I can fit in my backpack.

Happy travels!

Hedemora Chickens

I met a chicken farmer recently in Gamla Uppsala, with a particular flock of birds unlike any I have seen or farmed with myself. Naturally I took curiosity, and knocked on the side door to ask about his chickens, to which he was overwhelmingly informative on his birds, and told many stories and information about the breed.

Called Hedemora Chickens, they are a native Swedish breed, that he has kept for three decades on a small tract of land beside an ancient Viking settlement. The breed itself has been around since the 17th century Medieval times. One of his oldest chickens was seventeen years in age. He also has interesting looking Musk ducks from south America with a red mask of feathers around the eyes. He told me about their unique feathers which are nearly like fur on some of the lower parts of the body, and have both normal plumage, and down, like that from eider ducks. This is the warmest natural animal material you can get, and he also was highly enthusiastic about the meat quality, being only second to a type of wild Swedish forest bird, related to the grouse.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

They are extremely cold hardy and can free-range in -20c, or lay eggs at -5c. They live in a part of Sweden that is close to the same latitude as Anchorage, Alaska. Besides this, their color variations are many. You can have a completely black bird, with black beak, wattle, comb, feathers, bones, and meat, by carefully crossing the birds with the bluish/purple features. Though he said farmers in Sweden never breed for the looks, rather for the quality of the eggs, and the meat. I was given 5 eggs, which are just waiting to be boiled and eaten.

I have looked far and wide for chicken breeds that I would like to own, and have bee favoring towards Icelandic chickens, and possibly guinea hens, but before now I had never known of this breeds existence, and would love to have a few in my future flock, whenever I can build my own farm. Until then, I will have to stare at these beautiful birds, and learn their ways, while they scratch and peck on another man’s land.

 

Bonavista to Tofino, and The Canada in Between

If I told myself 3 years ago that I would travel end to end of Canada, I wouldn’t believe myself, but now I can say I have stood, and swam on both coasts, from Bonavista and Wolf Cove in the East of Newfoundland, to Tofino and Meares Island in the west coast. This was not one single journey but different legs of a Canadian experience taken in time throughout my travels over my nomadic existence. While goat farming, and gardening in Newfie, and living in a small Irish cottage next the waves, and touring the Western archipelago beyond Vancouver island with the Native Ahousaht band, and staying in a small rustic hostel.

The country in between has been many days on the road, both on my leather soles, and stuck in a greyhound with 80 other people. I feel that traveling end to end in Canada is something all people from this country should do, for the mere sake of exploring their habitat. These trips and excursions have taken me into the South Shores of Nova Scotia, the Northern Wilderness of Ontario, the trending city of Montreal, the flatlands of Manitoba, the Rockies of British Columbia, and the forests of Cape Breton. Every places carries its own memories, over 7000km of land. I’ve yet to be in the Yukon, Northwest Territories or Nunavut, but these will have their time after some years away from Canada, while I now travel in Scandinavia, my second home.

These Giants Live: Cathedral Grove at the Heart of the Rainforest

Somewhere along a stand of douglar firs, balsam pines, and sitka spruce along the Alberni highway, the trees seem to rise a little taller, breath heavier, and completely dwarf everything in it’s vicinity. A literal sylvan cathedral of ancient cedars, tried and toughened by forest fire, the oldest survivors grew their first buds two and a half decades before Columbus even sailed here, eschewing age of 900 years+, the canopy overhead can not even be seen. Deep in the soggy rainforests of Vancouver Island, I found myself sitting with these elders, and feeling their tremendous humble power in my soul. In my own country, i’ve never been in true rainforest before, though I could not even relate these for brevity to the rainforests in Mexico, or Scotland, Cathedral Grove has it’s own persona. IMG_2731

Slow steps through the forest, with a heavy rucksack on my back, over root and stone, fern, and bone. Old men lie dead with hard tempered skin, and the hollows of fauna homes rest dankly on the black earth. Beard mosses drip with moisture from trees, and the branches of stickly evergreens build runestaves to the sky. The jungle of this place seems impenetrable, one can hide in the shade of jurassic flora, and crawl with the microlife beneath the shallow sight. An incense of purified mist, herbal infused air, and pungent but sweet soils fills the nostrils in quick drafts of euphoric awe. Each raw face of the millenial cedars gnarls its branches away into all directionals of the space around it. This is my rock of protection, these are my roots of exploration, to follow them, leads into the all of the forest. Back up into the hallways of allways, and the forest is forever in the vastness of the sky, and the deeps of the ground.

Wild waters tumbled over small smooth turned pebbles, and I drank deep draughts of the forest mead, and ate the squirrels forage on an old stump. As twilight cloaked the air with a familiar smell of petrychor, the last humans left their echoes of footfalls, and I went further down the rabbit hole into the dark shelters of the trail, seeking a bed. I found a hollow giant, blackened on the inside from the thunder bolt hallowing, with a partition of curved trunk missing from the side. Here it was finally submitted to gravity, and filled with detritus from the layers of the woods above. Brushing out the leaves and sticks, a perfect shallow was left for me to lay down my bones, sleeping bag and all, with cover from the rain, and privacy in the night. I spent the nocturnal hours in a deep slumber, inside the hollow trunk, in a feral healing session. With the Mjolnir hammer hanging above me, and heathen prayers spoken for protection from any jotun forces, and falling widowmakers. The sunwheel of morning aroused me out of rest, into a light gloom, and with my traveling scandinavian partner, we hobbled out of the forest the way we came, myself in revered silence, and her in frithful folk song. Colors of the wind. I thought about it all, and remembered, that Giants do live on earth.

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Viking Route

Alas, soon these Canadian lands will evade me again, and I till take my third trip into the world, if this were the Rune row, it would be the third aett. Getting what you deserve after hard fair work, meeting the heroine, mutual travel on land and sea, making new allies, coastal/fjord/lake experiences, recognizing ancestry, reflection on the miles and wyrd, landfinding.

I no longer feel the need to work my salt in this country, after coming off 6 hard months in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, I have put aside enough to go A’Viking once more. I will not reveal too intimately the heart of my travels, but I can speak of a certain pilgrimage through Scandinavia, while visiting and experiencing more deeply the Nordic Culture.

From Iceland I will sail to Faroe Islands, and stay for 5 days, then fly to Copenhagen. In Roskilde, I am taking a Viking ship out into the fjord for a sunset sailing, then traveling by land to Sweden, trelleborg, Gotland, Uppsala, and the Runestone region on the outskirts of Stockholm, then continuing to sail to Aland, and Finland, and whether by air or ground, make it to Norway and come back down to Germany, via Denmark. I have 3 months in Europe, so I may finish off my tour with the Sami, and their annual winter pasture migration, this is not yet carved in Runes, but something is in the works.

I feel more at home in the Scandinavian countries, where the culture speaks my language, and the humor raises a laugh from deep within, I can hardly wait the 7 days until I once again touch down on black volcanic soil of the land of Fire and Ice!

Godspeed!

Against the Use of Big Machines in Agriculture

I feel a heavy hand tonight, to write this piece because it has been fermenting in my mind for some time now, actually since I wrote the post about hand tools. This is something I want to speak with clarity and coherency about the use of machines on the farm, mostly I am referring to the large machinery like harvesters, tractors, tillers, weed badgers, farm vehicles, etc. I think I can talk with some authority here given my extensive study of permaculture, traditionalist agriculture, and my world work on different ethnic farms. Having also been doing this steady now for 3 years.

In the world of monoculture farming, you are sure to get one thing, by necessity, one crop of whatever was planted, in long row upon row of the same fruit, grain, cereal, vegetable, or nut, and that’s it. Sometimes these farms can swell to immense proportions, in the hundreds or even thousands of acres. The crop is planted once in the case of an annual, and then reaped of all it’s bounty at the end of the season, using powerful machines, then they lie dormant and must be planted again after winter. All the product is shipped far off, probably to another country, and a laborer of the farm may spend years in this field and never even consume what comes off the plant, because it is cleaned, processed, and packaged exclusively for someone else. There is something wrong here.
Now the root problem of this comes in when you ask how you can sow 1 million seeds of rye, or 50,000 blueberry bushes, or half a million heads of corn, then you must also reap them when they are ready to eat. The machines that are used make a lot of noise, consume petrol, are dangerous to operate, they break down and need hard to find parts shipped from Japan, they are ugly and do not fit with the landscape, they damage the crops extensively, break water lines, compact the soil, leave permanent scars and ruts in the fields, need sometimes several people to operate, and are only good at doing one job at a time, during a short window of the year. The aura of different problems can continue but I will posture these as some prime examples. One must ask why there is need for this? Why do machines have to come in the game?

Because sustainable farming does not have anything to do with producing a vast amount of crop to provide a city with their groceries, it means first taking care of yourself, and making sure your closest family, and maybe your small community will be provided for, of course this is most efficient when solo, for then only one person needs to be taken care of. When an entire suburb needs their greenhouse kale every day of the year at their local grocery store chain, there is no possibility of these foods being sustainably grown, and nurtured into existence without machines. When you bring in the big metal, you cause more damage than good, and the attention to quality in work depletes.I have personally experience the gamut of different farming techniques from smallholding front yard gardens to permaculture, biodynamic principles, organic community gardens, monoculture, polyculture, silviculture, and every other culture you can name, almost. When an individual or collective of green minded people put in the conscious energy of planting a garden that is dymamically active, or establishing a food forest that actually mimics nature, and generally sowing a small scale plantation, or orchard of some kind, then there is no use for the big machines. There is nothing quite as dexstrous as the human hand when a blueberry bush needs combing, nothing as efficient as a ladder and a long reach to get every walnut or hazelnut off a tree in fruit, and almost nothing more traditional in the ethnic history of agriculture than good old fashioned shucking of corn. There is no mutilation to the plants that have worked so hard with the natural elements to thrive, no broken branches from awkward machinery, no missed berries, and a more subtle appreciation for the actual food you are receiving from nature. It is slow pace, but does not mean thousands or millions of dollars in investments.

One lazy beer gut can run over a field of barley, and not give a flying fuck where it goes, what it is making, or what it does to the earth, so long as he gets his pay and can afford his bills. He is not a farmer who switches gears, presses buttons, pulls levers, and moves tyres over the soil, killing all other life to keep a few hundred of the same, ignoring the importance of diversity. When you stand barefoot on black earth, or crawling near the shade of plants breathing in the microbes of the soil, and the fresh air, in the elements, with 4-5 others doing the same, carefully digging each potato out of the ground, allowing yourself to be alright without aesthetically perfect food, then what is gained from the work is not only a yield, but an experience, a challenge, and a lesson of teaching. You may find 10 or more plants that you chose to identify that you have never known before, you may see wildlife, in their macro-or microfauna varieties, you don’t need to be closed in a metal box with earplugs, and safety protection, you can forage all day, and not have to take 3 square meals, which is so unnatural anyways. Even weeding can be a catharsis, when the same task is repeated, you no longer have to think about it, and your mind can tackle those pent up problems you have held on to for so long. You can use the weeds as a metaphors for those issues in your life you want to defeat or take complete control of. This idea came to me while weeding a field of shrubs, moving down the line, row by row forever, but at least I kept my dignity, and I had my night planned out before me already in my mind. Through seeing the sacred in the mundane. You connect to if not a wilder instinct, at least a true understanding of agrarian lifestyle. A dependency on the soil that humbles the human nature.

There is no need for the big guns, the crows and the wasps are not vermin, and the winged or shelled ones pose no real danger, no is no such thing as weeds, it is mankinds inventioned farming and his fossil fuel burning behemoths that are the real problem! Can I pose a solution? Think of a pig as having a tiller on the front, and a manure spreader on the back, think of the chicken as a mobile pest control vehicle, think of the dog as an off road sheep herder, the cow as a furrow cutter, and the workhorse, or work moose for all you Canadiana folk out there as a winch trailer for those buff logs to haul from the woods.

ATWA!