J got off okay this morning at just a tad after 05:00. Our German neighbour, Roger, came up and collected her in his grand 4X4, otherwise it would have been pretty hairy for the first 200 Kms or so! He was intent on going shopping at the German store, Bauhaus, in Birsta, just outside Sundsvall which is open nowadays on Sunday, it appears. Having checked online, SJ - the Swedish state railway - has a gizmo that lets you check on train journey progress, very useful - her train/tåg left on the button and was on time all the way South. Incredible, given conditions. In the UK the railway network would be down in these snow-ridden conditions and low temps. Wrong kind of snow, probably. Maybe they have the 'right' kind up here. There's certainly enough to export.
I slumbered on fitfully until about 08:00, when the tap-dancing racket being made by two bored and excitable cats woke me and forced me from bed. Then, we had minus seven and light cloud, with another fresh sprinkling of snow blanketting everything. Charlie raced out, as per, and Rocky plumped for tucker - he's so predictable, at times! Jack lumbered out and barked a bit at Håkan's mutt, Birk, who barked back loudly, persistently and frustratingly - he's kept in a large chain-fenced run while Håkan & Monica do the milking - presumably envious of Jack's apparent liberated existence.
The bloody Woodpecker has managed to release the small catch at the base of one of the nut-feeders, thereby releasing a torrent of (bloody expensive) peanuts/jordnötter onto the perma-frosted ground below: all the easier to hoover-up, no doubt!:
Having scoffed the lot, he is now dangling on the other feeder attacking the fat-balls I managed to squeeze into it:
Greedy - but smart - bastard!
I would think, given the temp when I surfaced, that it must have been closer to minus ten when J left at fiveish. Temps like this are mild for this area in winter. But they are levels where UK authorities issue emergency warnings and everything grinds to a halt - save, of course, for Isle of Lewis residents who receive storm warnings related to tying down their bins! You've just got to love that thought!
Yesterday evening, as the sun was Westering, we took a short hike down into the forest with Jack in tow - or, more accurately - gambolling ahead puppy-like. The snow is going fast and the ground is nowhere near as hard as it would usually be at this time of year. In places where bushes and trees have had limbs caught out, stuck under the forst and snow, they are springing back already green with new growth apparent. This is also visible on our own fruit and currant bushes, where new growth looks promising. It all augers well, for an early Spring and decent cropping Summer, we hope. We had a delightful walk at about zero/minus one or two degrees but lovely setting sunlight. One of the great pleasures of living in this at times extreme environment.
I'm forever on the search for Bears. We have many Brown Bears in the forest and they should be out of hibernation by now with their young cubs. Obviously, we are cautious - they're not known to be very welcoming or cordial at this time of year when hunger pangs are sharpest. But, as usual, there was no sign. Not even scat, which is evident from time to time. We did find some Moose/Älg scat by one track though these shy and elusive animals are difficult to spot in their forest habitat where they blend remarkably well with the background.
There are also Wolverines hereabouts, though, again, these are seldom seen. They're also known as Gluttons and are the biggest of the Marten family, I believe, with an odd, sideways loping gait. In theory, their track/spoor should be easy to spot in the snow but I've yet to see it. I remain hopeful, though. There are also Lynx, which we have seen a few times, Beavers, countless Deer and, my favourites, Bubu Bubu - Eagle Owls, and also Great Grey Owls around.
J saw a Great Grey a few days ago when it whooshed across the road in front of the car, almost coming a cropper! Despite their size, they are astonishingly agile in the forest, slipping, twisting and gliding at speed through the thickest of tree-cover. Another firm favourite is the Capercaillie; these are common here and strut around on the roads at this time of year, which to them are simply forest clearings, I suppose! The males are marvellously ridiculous birds when puffed-out, raucously self-important and randy.