Still blogging…

For those of you who think I’ve just disappeared after ceasing to maintain the carpathianadventure site, you can follow the adventure I call life at http://edwardotoole.com/blog/

I miss many of you and your comments so come over and pay me a visit!

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.

Just call me Noah…

 

I’d forgotten all about this until transferring some old files this morning. One of the best adverts ever made – it’s such a shame that Lynx / Axe bowed down to PC pressure and stopped their humour.

It still makes me grin… 🙂

Czechoslovak VZ-58 bayonet

Czechoslovak VZ-58 bayonet

Yesterday I was driving into Bardejov when I noticed a village pub having some sort of flea market. Most of the stuff on sale was dire but one bloke had some interesting old military memorabilia. There were quite a few WW2 German badges and some old socialist Czechoslovak uniforms but his big box of bayonets is what caught my attention.

Inside the old box were several bayonets from WW1, mainly of the pig sticker variety, and a few from WW2. However, as an amateur collector of Kalashnikov bayonets I decided to go with a pretty beat up Czechoslovak VZ-58 bayonet. Unlike the Izhvesk Kalashnikov bayonets I have, which are virtually mint, this one has obviously been hammered, reground and the leather scabbard has suffered from mildew. I figured it would make an excellent new bushcraft knife. The VZ-58 was a Kalashnikov clone produced and used in socialist Czechoslovakia, but it used a completely different type of bayonet to the original and other communist country clones.

The seller told me it was from 68 or 69 but I have no way of telling as the inspector’s stamp on the rear of the uniquely styled frog is too worn out. I chose this one over the older variant as it has a full tang which extends into a ‘hammer’ behind the hilt. I intend to use this one in the bush, not merely keep it as a conversation piece.

Parasol Mushroom – start of mushroom season

Parasol Mushroom – start of mushroom season

Last year we had a historic mushroom season. Edible and other fungii grew in unbelievable abundance from the beginning of summer until the start of winter. however, this year is not the same. There are virtually no mushrooms about and it has been forecasted that there won’t be. This is due to two factors – last year it rained all summer and also the fungii basically spored themselves out. it will take years for them to recover in number and strength.

This parasol mushroom (Macrolepiota procera) stood alone where last year there were hundreds.

Chinese firelighter bracelet field test

This is a paracord bracelet I ordered online from China as it, purportedly, has a firestick and whistle as part of the locking mechanism.
I decided to try it out whilst out walking in the bush and these are the results. A normal sized firestick usually takes 2 or 3 strikes on Birch bark dust to get a fire going, regardless of how wet the Birch is. This Chinese bracelet had other plans.
To make it even more difficult to use, regardless of the fact that the firestick is only millimetres across and a couple of centimetres long, which ultimately produces a tiny spark without much heat, is that the firestick is positioned between the two clips, thus preventing any but the most awkward strike – and the clips lose a lot of plastic in the process.
I’d say it’s useable if the tinder is mega dry – which would be a feat in itself where I live at any time apart from the height of summer. It really is only either as an emergency tool or as an interesting knick-knack. In no way does it replace a proper firesteel, box of matches or a cigarette lighter for lighting a fire from naturally available material.
After ultimately getting a fire going, there is virtually no firestick left. It was a lesson in frustration and determination. Theoretically, it does what it says on the box, just don’t plan to do anything else for a few hours….

Filmed on a Dazzne P2.

Attic exploration equipment

Attic exploration equipment

Due to the sheer amount of skat, guano and decaying rodents in my attic, I have to be careful about breathing in toxic airborne pathogens from the dust that floats around in the 50 degrees centigrade + heat. I started off using a shemagh around my face, then progressed to a dust mask and finally bought an old Czechoslovakian gas mask (unused, with a sealed cartridge). For light I use a Petzl head torch (kindly given to me by my friend Pete).

A few years back I paid one of the village gypsies to clean out the attic but it quickly refilled. I guess I’ll have to get someone to do it again. It’s one job I’d really rather not do myself as it’s a major biohazard and my lungs have only just recovered after going bad last winter.

Once the last leaves have fallen after Autumn, I’ll cut back the trees which are scraping against my roof as this will reduce the access the critters have to the attic, although I’m sure they’ll find other ways in. Then I’ll go on a rampage against them – most likely with a sonic deterrent.

Surprise boar

Surprise boar

At noon today, we went for a walk along the abandoned country road near the house. On the return journey I stopped for a pee. I’d just undone my flies when I realized that, not 50 feet away, was the largest boar I’d ever seen in my life. At first I thought it was a bear.

Not wanting to miss the opportunity, i left my flies undone and took out my camera. He was immense and the adrenaline was pumping through me. I had no idea what to do if he decided to charge as there was nowhere to run to and I didn’t have my valaska, my shepherd’s axe, with me. Eventually he noticed us and then ran off into the bush. I can’t begin to describe the sensation. We’d been talking about various problems and issues, extremely wide ranging topics, but upon spotting the boar, every ounce of focus sharpened, Zen like, into one object. The world condensed into the size of that boar and fight or flight reaction. It was an amazing feeling – scary but enlightening.

I’ve no idea why there are so many boar this year. I’ve lived here for 17 years and never seen as many in that entire time as i have within the last month.

And yes, I did do up my flies….