Archive for August, 2008


August 27, 2008
Timmerstugor =  Log Cabins

A week ago today I started work.  After being on vacation for 10 days, on the first full day that Betsey and the girls were here, I started.  I really had no idea what I was in for…and apparently, neither did they.  There are no homes being built in the shop, right now, as a couple of customers are waiting on financing.

I start at 7 am.  Most of you know that 7 am and I don’t get along very well.  My drive is only about 15 minutes and I get to motor through a very beautiful, pastoral region, through Jössefors and into Öttebol.  I am driving our red Volvo (we have officially named it “Erik the Red”) along narrow, curvy, paved roads and, although I have yet to see much wildlife, the oncoming traffic seems to interpret the lack of a painted center line as and invitation to use the whole road.  I am on the alert for oncoming traffic, for sure.

Swedes have the reputation as being socially reticent and my co-workers have enforced this stereotype.  Other than office staff, until yesterday only one man had spoken with me.  Granted the foreman log-builder is an older man who speaks very little English (and I less Swedish).  But yesterday I spoke with two (2!) other young men who have workable English and one of them has been helping me on my log work.  There are only about 6 people of this staff of about 20 who do the log work.  Others are carpenters and such, finishing the homes once they’re set up on site.

Magnus has been my teacher in this Norwegian style of log building (we are close to the Norwegian border and both the company owner and many of the customers are Norwegian).  He has a pretty good grasp on English and he is teaching me the Swedish names for the tools and techniques.  He has been patient with me and has apparently liked what I have done as he told me I should not get too good too fast.  Apparently Thor and Odin may be offended.

Magnus thinks that this style of joining logs may be one of the most complicated styles in the world.  I can believe it.  That is not to say the difficult, but I have been writing a manual for myself (and will submit a completed version to the company after I have used it a bit) and the process for shaping the bottom of the log has, in my draft manual, 42 different and distinct steps.  The tools involved include an electric Stihl chainsaw, a really great Swedish axe that looks a bit like a small, Medieval battle axe, hammer, chisel, electric hand planers, a large circular saw, one of those old-fashioned measuring sticks that folds in on itself, a custom-made scribe and the ubiquitous Swedish work knife.

Seven days of work and all I have to show for it.

This corner has been my training and I have made it with discarded scrap pieces just laying about.  Many of the pieces are too checked or twisted to use for anything else, which has it’s own challenges.  My progress is evident as the corner gets higher.  I am pleased with my work, so far.  It has been suggested that my next project, to start in a few days, may be a dog house, as then I will have to get two joints (knuts) to match the two logs below.  Magnus says that if the dog rejects it I get sent home.

A finished joint.

My training continues.  Not sure when they’ll let me work on a real house!

All is well.




August 23, 2008


Erik the Red, Anders the Bald, Kurt the Shaggy

Erik the Red, Anders the Bald, Kurt the Shaggy

We drove to Karlstad in our new car today.  Its a red volvo with 170,000 miles on it.  It cost under $3000 and was worth every penny.  Our hero, our King, Anders swung a deal for us at the local Volvo dealer.  Before his job with the Arvika ambulance he worked at the dealers.  John Swenson (names have been changed to protect the not so innocent) the owner, and Anders bickered, cajoled, mocked, teased, and mock bluffed their way to the price for over an hour.  The body language itself was wonderful.


The day in Karlstad was a total bust.  We spent 2 hours at the car dealer trying to pay for the car.  A word to the wise: Do not purchase Visa travel Money.  Fast, convenient and easy to use!  Lies, all Lies. We haven’t paid for the car yet!  Thank goodness John Swenson trusts Anders!  It could also be that the profit he made on the deal was 70 kroner (@$12)

The goal of the day was to purchase bikes.  Nope.  Nothing anywhere within our price range.  There were no bike racks left at BilTema.  We did visit a second hand store where the girls bought a few clothes.  There are two second hand stores in Arvika as well, so we should be able to outfit the apartment fairly reasonably.

We have become devoted fans of Murder She Wrote with Angela Lansbury.  We love Jessica and with the swedish translations at the bottom of the screen, we can practice our swedish at the same time!

Our apartment comes available to us Sepember 1.  We will miss Camilla, Anders and Leia.  Leia has a wonderful throaty laugh and she adores the girls. 

I visited Stina, my host father’s mother, and had fika (coffee) with her and Rolf, her boarder.  He owns an antik shop in town.  Stina speaks no english and I actually find that I understand a great deal of what what says.  Of course, there is no way to make sure as I can’t ask her for clarification!

Kurt has been feeling ill, bad tummy and aches.  He was bit by a tick and so we’re all a bit edgy about Lymes disease, which is also found in Sweden. Anders and Camilla are both nurses and they think about these things. We still (yes, I know, foolishly) haven’t figured the whole insurance thing out yet. The human services guy at work hasn’t been around much to talk to.  And yep, it’s on the list for Monday.  Work is tough right now for him.  Nobody talks to him and there is no training program to speak of. 

Sunday we shall hike in the woods, look for dragonflys and lingonberries.