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Skiing to the boulder

Yesterday I spent most of the day sitting at the computer, developing Ancient Savo. Towards the night I noticed that I'm also developing tense muscles in my shoulders. That is not good, for a few months ago I was suffering a persistent head-ache due to tense neck and shoulder. So now I'd better do something about it, before it gets that bad again. Some proper movement would be good!

Today at noon there was bright sunlight. I packed some food and equipment and went skiing. To see that big split boulder I mentioned in my earlier post. And to have a camp-fire to cook coffee and grill a few sausages. And to get some proper movement for my shoulders. So, first down the village road to the fields. Then cross the fields to get to the lake ice. Those who have been reading my older posts might remember that I've mentioned the Takalahti bay, where the pikes gather for their spawn every spring when the ice thaws - and it is exactly the ice on that shallow long narrow lagoon-like bay I was skiing on. There were plenty of animal tracks - hares, and probably a fox, criss-crossing here and there. It was nice to notice how an animal had used my old ski tracks as a path. The Takalahti Bay takes to the wide open Lake Paloselkä. Someone was ice-fishing on the other side of the lake. After a moment I noticed that someone else had been skiing on the ice, too. So I decided to use the tracks left by another skier, for it is significantly easier than making the way in untouched snow.

The weather was fine; it was sunny and not too cold nor too windy. Instead of taking the shortest route into the woods where the boulder is, I decided to just ski a few kilometres on the ice, not particularly going anywhere but just to get extra exercise. Skiing up the lake I got to a place where there are a lot of summer cottages near the shore. And a lot of tracks started from almost every cottage; people walking on snow shoes, skiing, dragging a toboggan, going somewhere and back. I was wondering if some of the tracks would take all the way to the islands which have no summer cottages on them. For there is that one island called Kaisansaari, which has been a local gathering place for ages, and the island has some basic public facilities like a dry toilet and an open shelter with a fireplace in it. Well, but since I was not going to Kaisansaari myself, I didn't go following the tracks which went to that direction. Instead I kept on following the shoreline. Soon I noticed some sort of small instalment on the ice, and the ski tracks I was following appeared to take right there. I got there and it looked like a temporary fireplace set on the ice. And tracks from many different cottages met there, so maybe this is something like a shared gathering place. "Interesting" I thought to myself, and kept on skiing, now in untouched snow, for the other skier had probably made an U-turn at that gathering place.

I kept on skiing, not thinking of the coding project, not worrying about anything, just happily observing the surroundings and being as present in the moment as possible in my current mindset. At a random point I made an U-turn, then skiing to the place which I have earlier used to leave the lake and enter the woods. I found my old tracks still easily visible, so following the tracks it was rather easy to get to the boulder. And there it was, at least 3 metres tall, about the same in diameter, and split in half so that the other part remained standing, and the other part more or less collapsed. When I was at the elementary school we were taught that such boulders were left by ice-age. The giant masses of ice slowly moved as they thawed, and they had such an intense power that they grind mountains to rocks and sand, leaving Finland rather flat. And the masses of ice would carry those big boulders, like memories from the mountains they had passed. And then when the ice thawed the boulders were left at random places. I don't know if that is still the most plausible theory to explain the boulders. Well, no matter where such boulders came from, this one happens to be here, all alone in the middle of woods. I circled around the boulder, thinking if it would be a good place to have a camp-fire at. But I started to feel that this is not a place for that. For practical and for symbolical reasons. On the practical side: It was pretty snowy here, everywhere, and I couldn't spot a nice place to start a fire at. On the symbolical side: The more time I spent at the boulder the more I felt that this is more like a place to sacrifice for the forest spirits - not a disturb the local spirits by having a casual camp-fire at their place. So I went on skiing.

This time I deliberately circled around scouting places, so that I'd have a better mental map of this area. Getting to know the distinct terrain features, and mapping their relations to each other. Like "from the boulder downhill to that direction takes me to the small marsh, which lies near the place I often go picking lingonberries". After some scouting I picked a direction and went on looking for a good spot to have a fire at. After a while I noticed a small rock, half a metre tall, and somehow there was very little of snow on the other side of the rock. Also, next to that rock there was a storm-felled big spruce, which wasn't lying flat on soil, but was still leaning on its stump which was one metre tall. The spruce would yield dry branches for easy firewood. So I first placed a layer of branches on the snow next to the chosen rock. For kindling I carefully removed thin pieces of the outer part of bark from a nearby birch. And collected as dry spruce branches I could find. I started the fire, but it soon died out. Everything was so damp and snowy. I gathered more of the kindling and tried again. After trying that many times I started to feel that it is not going to work this way. I was running low on matches, so maybe I'd really need some better kindling soon. (Yes, I was using matches. Maybe next time I can try being cool like Sami, starting a fire with traditional methods). I'd need chips from a tar-stump. But tar-stumps are something you find in old-growth forest, so how would I find one here?

Allow me to go into details: A tar-stump is formed when a pine tree slowly dies. To protect itself while slowly dying the pine sap turns into thick black tar. And tar is not a potent anti-bacterial anti-rot substance, it is also highly flammable. Well, but eventually the dead pine will fall down, leaving a stump. And that stump, saturated with anti-rot tar could remain there for ages. Those are a life-saver for an unlucky camper; whittled chips from the tar-stump make a perfect kindling, they will burn even when moist. And the thing is that in modern forestry trees aren't allowed to slowly die on their own when they get old. To gain economical profit the trees are felled when they are full grown but not yet too old. And usually damaged or otherwise ill trees are removed. Therefore new tar-stumps don't get to form that often. They are something you see in untouched woodlands, in conservation areas and nature parks and such. Well, so I decided just to look around, trying to find anything which could be of help. There was a stump, I checked it but it was already partially rotten - no tar in it. To check I whittle a chip - if it has tar, the chip will be bright in colour and emit a recognisable aroma of tar. Then, just a few metres away there was another stump which looked kind of a promising. I whittled chips, but they were dark and damp, smelling like a slowly rotting piece of dead wood. But I noticed that this stump had a marks of an axe blade. Maybe a decade or two ago someone had been hitting this stump with an axe to remove pieces and splinters. Why? I checked again, this time near the axe cuts. Yes! This time I got bright chips with smell like tar - some of them where so saturated with tar that they felt sticky to my fingers. Using those chips it was quick to get the camp-fire going. For slightly damp branches just need some proper initial fire so that they'll dry and burn.

By the nice camp-fire I melted some snow to cook coffee. And grilled some sausages for food. It was such a tasty nice meal in the woods! When I was drinking coffee it came to my mind that trying to start the fire was actually pretty much like a real-life version of debugging a piece of software. You try it, but it doesn't work. You try it again to get a better idea where it fails. You adjust little bit of this and that, and try again. And if that doesn't make it work, you keep on repeating the "adjust-try" cycle. And at some point if you start to feel stuck you need to pause to re-think. If the series of adjustments didn't work, you are probably trying it the wrong way, and you need a different approach. Finding a different approach requires some creativity, so you'd better maintain a relaxed creative state of mind. And, sometimes, finding the solution just takes some persistence and luck. Anyhow, when it finally works, you feel "yay!"

After the meal I continued skiing. This time I didn't get lost, so it didn't take long to get to a road which takes to my place. That road is small and infrequently used, so usually no-one bothers to clear snow on that road. So in the wintertime the road turns into more like path, used by people walking their dogs, or some random bloggers skiing around. After four hours of adventure I was back at home. I continued my indie game development, and got done everything I had planned for today. Yay!

The February radiance!
The February radiance!
Following my old tracks.
Following my old tracks.
The boulder.
The boulder.
Coffee!
Coffee!
tags: 
diary
homesteading
programming
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Comments

Very nice post Erkka! It looks cold yet comfy at the same time, nothing like cooking up food and a warm beverage after trekking about in the snow. Glad to hear you're taking the necessary breaks for your physical well being. We aren't meant to sit slouched in front of screens and your body will remind you of that!

Hieno retkitarina, kauniita kuvia!

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