New year, new wheels

New year, new wheels

It’s been a while since I last posted and a lot has happened.

Thanks to the new wood stove we could stay at the house over Christmas and New Year at a livable although not comfortable temperature. New Year’s Eve was minus 15 Celsius and that was hard going. The stove now allows us to be be able to live, should the need arise, without mains connection.

My brother and his girlfriend have left Slovakia after spending almost 8 months here. They gave it a good try, first at his hill fort and then later in a rented apartment, but it’s a harsh environment to get set up in financially and bureaucratically. I wish them the best back in the UK.

Finally, the snow has come after only a couple of fleeting earlier visits. We spent several months in dense fog, mud and rain with no sunlight and that was utterly miserable – and completely different to the true winters we’re used to. We’re currently expecting minus 20 and below.

As usual, my family celebrated Slovak Christmas on the 24th, English Christmas on the 25th and then Ruthenian Christmas on the 6th of January (their New Year’s Eve was this Wednesday).

Finally, I have a Land Rover – a Discovery Mk2 TD5. I’ve wanted a Land Rover since I was a toddler, albeit a LWB Defender, but Discovery was always my second choice. Because of what I actually need it for, the Discovery seemed a much better idea. It’s taking a bit of getting used to – when I’m driving I’m half shaking with nerves and half grinning from ear to ear – as I’ve been driving a low powered saloon for the last 6 years. I still can’t believe I’ve finally got one, and it’s mahoosive.

Just getting the car was an adventure in itself (buying a  car or house out here can be problematic to say the least) and saw me taking a long pre-dawn bus ride through small bush towns and through snow draped countryside, dealing with scary dodgy blokes in big cities, going from police station to police station… but I finally got it. Just need to change the clutch now.

Today, after returning on isolated bush roads from Bardejov, where the boys and I went to buy a new stereo for it, I got to see just what the Discovery is capable of. I hit a  bad patch of ice coming out of a sharp bend and the car slid this way and that with me fighting to rectify it and slow it down. I really thought it was going to flip and then go crashing down a hillside into trees but i managed to swing/slide it across the road into a steep, snow filled ditch on the other side. We came to a stop, in shock, nose facing downwards and with the right rear wheel up in the air. Having come off icy and snowy roads into ditches in several different cars over the years out here, i suddenly realized that the Discovery is way too big to be pulled out by the average passing car and would need a tractor from a nearby village some several kilometres walk away. And then I thought why not see what it can do? I told the boys to stay in the car to weigh their side down and then I put it into low and reversed. It did so, without any effort whatsoever.

I was stunned.

The Discovery reversed on 2, maximum 3, wheels, out of a deep, steep, snow filled drainage ditch. I put it back into high and, with heart still pounding, we drove carefully home on the icy and snow-covered remote roads through the hills. I’ve had way too many adventures with it over the last two days to fill me for a while. For now, I’m content to just watch it from the window.

I’m hoping that this year is a good one and will bring some positive, forward, momentum. And money 🙂

Bushcraft Magazine Autumn Article

Bushcraft Magazine Autumn Article

The Autumn issue of Bushcraft Magazine is out. They’ve included an article of mine on the benefits and techniques of Trail cam usage as both a learning tool for and a moral alternative to trapping.

Go order a copy. As usual, the magazine is beautifully printed. Support real bushcrafters – those dedicated to sustaining ancient skills in the modern world.

New green ceramic wood stove

New green ceramic wood stove

This week I realized an aim I’ve had for several years – to have a wood stove which cooks and heats. When we first bought the house it had one of the old, traditional brick and ceramic sit-on stoves, a giant contraption. Unfortunately, I tore it down and replaced it with a modern fireplace which heats part of the house via tubes.

We also have a ceramic and brick heating stove in another part of the house and a propane cooker in the kitchen. What i really wanted was something that both heated and cooked and kept its heat. This new stove is extremely, back-breakingly heavy as it’s made of cast iron, ceramic tiles and the interior is clay. We also had to have a new chimney made to use it due to new regulations. Hopefully, it doe sthe job as room temperature in my house at the moment is a balmy 6 degrees Centigrade and winter hasn’t even really started.

Mousecapades – Yellow-necked mouse infra red

Another denizen of my attic, the yellow necked mouse (Apodemus flavicollis). This little critter is caught on infrared trailcam as he darts to and fro.

While he may be cute, the yellow-necked mouse carries tick borne encephalitis and, worse yet, the Dobrava virus, which is the Eurasian Hanta virus. It has a 12% mortality rate. As the main cause of viral infection is from aerosolized yellow-necked mouse faeces, I’m glad I wear a gas mask to go into my attic. Shame the Beech Marten couldn’t get rid of the lot of them.

 

Creepy Carpathian Unknown Animal Trailcam

This is in response to a comment by Josh Gross – The Jaguar about game cam use.

This is some strange trail cam footage I got a few months back. The creature is both large and partially transparent. No idea what it is but I guess it could be a wild boar. The photos creeped me out when I found them.
Photos taken in the Carpathian Mountains of Eastern Slovakia. There really are some weird and creepy things out in the bush.

Goat photo bomb

Goat photo bomb

One thing I’ve discovered from using a trail cam is that there are periods when nothing shows up, despite the camera being on a clearly marked game trail, or that the camera produces lots of File Errors, black photos or fails to take film footage. Another annoying aspect of using a game camera is getting excited because it shows that it’s taken 103 photos and they in fact turn out to be pictures of cows or goats which some local has been grazing in the vicinity.

Weather also heavily effects the camera. Dawn is one of the best times to capture the various denizens of the bush but now there’s a freezing ground mist which blurs the lens making most of the photos useless. The other day I discovered a layer of ice on both the lens and the IR flash from where the dew had frozen. I wonder how it will fare when real winter and massively sub zero temperatures hit.

Beech Marten infrared conundrum

Beech Marten infrared conundrum

I’m still having major problems getting a full-bodied picture or film of our resident Beech Marten (Stone Marten). When the camera’s there he can see the IR light and thus backs away – he can even see the range of it. When I remove the camera from the attic he’s back to his usual noisy stomping tricks.

Any suggestions?