Just over a week ago I wanted to take Feisty out for a ride but couldn’t get her to start because of the battery. We’d had a cold spell but it had cleared up and it was warm enough to comfortably ride. Now, we’ve been plunged into Arctic temperatures and more than a few minutes outside is painful. The forecast for New Year’s Eve is so bleak that many towns in Slovakia have, for the first time, cancelled their celebrations.
There has been snowfall but nowhere near the amount seen in the Alps. Instead, the weather went from mild to frostbite-cold almost overnight. There is a dark, Gothic beauty to the landscape, though. Dusk brings with it plummeting temperatures but also, as seen in this photo of Svidnik, a certain noire mystique.
This holiday season I fancied taking a break from my usual activities (Feisty’s battery’s dead because of the harsh weather and buggered if I’m sleeping out in the bush in Arctic temperatures). Being bitterly cold outside, I decided to catch up on my reading and spend some time with the kids. I ordered a new Call of Cthulhu RPG supplement from Chaosium, Inc (Fragments of Fear) so we could all have some fun in Lovecraft’s world. It had been several years since last we played (we were in Croatia the last time).
Being a huge fan of Sherlock Holmes, I also bought a few crossover books to read alone of an evening. The story collection Shadows Over Baker Street was excellent, for the most part, although some sort of missed the point or showed an ignorance of Sherlockian protocol on the part of the author (never switch perspectives to show the antagonist’s POV). I also bought the self-published Epub Sherlock Holmes: The Shadow From Beyond, by Erik Branz, from Smashwords. While the story and descriptions were excellent, the author sadly confused modern terminology and concepts, and Americanisms, with the Victorian ambient (police cadets, flat mates and Fall as a season became tiresome). He also really should have had a grammar check done. My suspicion is that he initially wrote it as a screenplay and then padded it out into a novella as the text regularly switched between the present and past tenses.
Having run out of Holmesian crossovers, i then downloaded The Strange Cases of Rudolph Pearson from Chaosium, Inc.
Happy days, indeed!
Which reminds me, I really must check how VS is doing over at the Cult of Cthulhu….
Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn
Outside it is bitingly cold and only a thin layer of snow has fallen. There were many animals out today, foraging in the fields as the forest is frozen. Roe and Red deer and one lone wolf some distance away. There were also plenty of tracks. This photo is, presumably, a badger (Meles meles) track but certain aspects of it give me doubts. There’s another, similar sized creature which I’ve been longing to see and which i know inhabits the area in which I found the track (2 were shot by an acquaintance a couple of months back, sadly), and that is the Raccoon Dog (Nyctereutes procyonoides). As I can only find one example of their tracks online (a front paw), I’m unable to compare – the photo is of a rear paw. Ironically, the Raccoon Dog even inhabits badger setts.
The search continues….
Out walking in the bizarrely balmy December weather today, we came across the left mandible of a a Wild Boar. Judging by tusk length, I’d say it was between one and two years old. It had obviously been killed within the last week as there were bits of flesh and blood left on it from where it had been picked almost clean. The tusk, once removed, also had a good deal of non-smelling gunk inside.
It’s unlikely that it was shot by hunters as they’d have taken both sets of tusks for a trophy. Today there was a large communal driven hunt taking place in the surrounding hills and gunshots went off regularly. It’s possible that wolves or feral dogs took the boar down, then scattered the bones.
I’ve removed the tusk and the extremely long incisors (which resemble canines and have most of their length inside the jawbone), and have left them soaking in a bleach solution. Wild boar can carry rabies without contracting it so I was a tad concerned handling the bloodied bone without knowing its source. I’m tempted to make a necklace with the teeth.
The weather is seriously freaky. I’ve never known it like this. It’s extremely annoying i can’t get my motorbike to start (due to several weeks of nights at -8 C) as I should be riding. There’s currently no snow (no White Christmas this year) and daytime temperature reaches over 10 C. Bah, humbug!
The sun goes down over the Slovak town of Svidnik. Slovakia, like many former socialist countries, is full of contrasts. Here, thickly forested hills can be seen behind the ubiquitous panelak concrete panel flat blocks.
Two of my articles have been published in the Autumn issue of Bushcraft Magazine. Yay! You can buy a copy here – http://www.bushcraft-magazine.co.uk/
I wrote about the two differing perspectives of living in the bush out here in Eastern Slovakia, from the traditional to the modern, from a villager’s seasonally-dependent perspective to the luxury man-cave life with enduro motorcycles and log fires.
Today, whilst out walking, I finally got the chance to photograph a Ural owl (Strix uralensis). Unfortunately, it kept flying further and further into the bush until hundreds of branches and twigs separated us. I forgot to switch on manual focus so it was a bit of a nightmare with the auto option due to the breeze.
Ural owls are huge birds yet they fly silently and are often out in the daytime. Hopefully at some point I’ll be able to photograph a Great Grey Owl, but I’ve only ever seen a couple here.
This season is somewhat like Limbo – the colours of Autumn have gone as all the leaves have fallen, yet the white of Winter has yet to arrive. Instead, the temperature has dropped uncomfortably low (-8 C in the mornings) and the land looks dead. It takes a huge effort to even venture outdoors. I’d wanted to photograph the stark white of the frozen forests on the hill tops but the blue sky quickly disappeared and was replaced by a grey, freezing fog which hid them.
This impressive log pile is just over the border into Poland, in the Magura National Park. We went again over the weekend, planning to take the kids for a walk in the forest, but the ambient just wasn’t inviting. In another month or so, when everything will be under thick snow, it will be more appealing. We passed a couple of beaver dams beside the road, and the artificial lakes the animals had created, and which had swamped parts of the woodland, were frozen over. no sign of the beavers though.
We switched off the water at the house and emptied the pipes as the temperature is plummeting too quickly and we don’t want to have to deal with the mess in Spring. I’m sure we’ll still have to replace the odd tap (faucet) or two but it’s the underground pipes which are of greatest concern.
Winter is a different world and this year looks like it’s going to be a nasty one.