Repairing a Static Caravan 5

Progress has been made. Here, newly painted exterior.

Progress has been made. Here, newly painted exterior.


DAMP-
A lot of things have happened since the latest article. During this time, I’ve felt a need to back-up some and discuss some basic problems that static caravans are plagued with. One of these is poor ventilation that leads to damp and an uncomfortable environment. Too, a damp atmosphere is not healthy in the long run nor does it argue for sustainable living.

I talked with a nearby neighbor about his static caravan and his comfort. He has a dehumidifier running and empties some 2 lt. or more of water most every day. What does his electricity costs look like? I spoke with another owner, with a relatively new static, and the dehumidifier is used “often”. I happened to stumble over a video where the presenter was explaining how to winterize a static caravan and most every point made was due to damp. Obviously, this is a problem and an expected belief about statics. As well, it can point a finger towards manufacturers more interested in sales results than consumer’s comfort.

Near the beginning of the project, I opened up an interior wall to see what the backside of the aluminum skin looks like, the part no one sees. I was met by a sight that confirms my suspicions of how wet a static caravan can be. The following picture is what I saw and it would hardly ever dry-out without good ventilation…(see gallery)

Having closed my static up and leaving it for 4 wintry months on Shetland, I came back and discovered something fantastic. My salt was dry! My other spices were dry! Everything from detergent to forgotten digestives were…dry!

The reason is simple but still complicated. With a regular static caravan, manufacturers make it look like air is being exchanged throughout the interior but the air is actually trapped due to manufacturers’, as I feel, fear of leakages.

Air in a normal static caravan rotates around. Without new air, it becomes damp through condensation.[/caption] Naturally, when static warm air connects with static cooler air, there is condensation. If there is too little flowing air, the humidity increases, causing an unfavorable living environment. It’s damp!

All dwellings must breathe, both inside and outside!

With this in mind and as I was renovating my static, I always had the above rule in mind. The day I took off the aluminum roof was the day I felt a drier air inside. I broke the seal and to this day I have no damp, closed in, old smells. How did I do it?

I built the outside walls in a fashion that a small air pocket ran up along between the insulation and the outside cladding. This air pocket connected to the loft area of the saddle roof. On the gable ends, I covered and weatherproofed the ends of the roof, but drilled air holes in the plywood, farthest up near the roofing, and covered these with a vertical wooden cladding. All this allows for the exchange of warm/cold air between the outside cladding, up into the loft and out/in through the holes I made.

Inside, I have an extractor fan that controls the airflow outwards every time I make food. This is over dimensioned and circulates a maximum of some 300 cubic meters of air p. hr. In the floor, where rain and water can’t get to, I have a small ventilation hole under the kitchen cabinets. All this, and each time I open the door or window, brings in fresh air from outside. When I leave, I make sure the ventilation is open. Note here, rain cannot go uphill and can never get under the exterior flooring outside.

Building in a correct and consequent way, cold air exchanged in the exterior air pockets is on the outside of the insulation area of the walls and ceiling. Heating is not any greater. I have approximately 65 cubic meters of air that needs heated. I have one oil-filled 2.0 kw heater. I have a gas cooker and an electric hot water heater. During the winter season, I use about £42-47 a month for all electricity, keeping an indoor temperature of circa +20° with nighttime reduction. Summer months in Shetland, I use about £20-22 a month for all electricity.

If done right, static caravans are enticing alternatives, support sustainable living and can be comfortably economic to live in.

Repairing a Static Caravan 4

If anyone is familiar with the North Atlantic weather conditions and Shetland’s “between weathers” phenomenon, then understand the intensity and stress it required to change the roof of the caravan. Not knowing when nor how the weather could change, it took true grit and courage to rip-off the only thin protection against rain and winds this caravan has had for close to a year.

Having insulated, rebuilt and paneled all the outside walls, the layer of aluminum roof was only being held on with a small strip of treated lumber. This small strip was holding down the 40mm overlay that was available from the old aluminum walling and, together with many tubes of mastic, it was only screwed down tight onto the upper part of the new walls. This upper part prepared the way for new rafters, or roof trusses, and had to be “unsealed” to change the roof.

So it was! The mastic weather-proofed parts were taken apart, skylights removed, and starting at the one gable end the rafters were laid in place. Eyes were often spying the horizon for weather changes, weather reports were eye-balled several times during a day and the work days were….very….very…long work days.

Simply speaking, old roof is removed, new rafters put into place, electrical wiring adjusted and inspected, Kingspan insulation between new rafters, treated plywood screwed on rafters, layer of roofing “gortex” stapled on plywood, slats fastened on covered plywood, some insulation put between slats that would lie just under metal roofing (prevents condensation and keeps the place quiet during hail or heavy rains) and finish it off with metal roofing. (So “simple” this wasn’t…just to save writing many paragraphs)

How long did this take? I don’t remember. Maybe a week or two? I do remember several 18 hour days with hardly any breaks. I do know that it was tough working and sometimes I had to tack down a strong plastic tarp material for rainy periods in between all work. Fortunately, I had a few friends spend some of their time to lend a hand. Great help, indeed!

After the roof was in stable condition, I grit my teeth and attacked the extension area. Same procedure as the rest of the exterior…Kingspan, gortex and paneling. Just this last week, I finally could fit the new front door.

Old aluminum roofing was recycled. It weighed in at 40kg and gave £16.

I’ll let the pictures explain better…. (to be continued)

Repairing a Static Caravan 3

Winter came and went and most of the outside work had to be put on ice…no pun intended in reference to winter. In lieu of this and before heading home to complete another building project during the Christmas holidays, it was possible to start chipping away on necessary indoor tasks with expectations to continue outside work after the holiday season and, supposedly, with a more favourable weather.

Bedroom
Many older caravans have two bedrooms. The smaller second bedroom of this caravan was one of the first things we tore away, creating an open interior planning but leaving only one master bedroom. This larger bedroom was less than 4 sq. mt. and hardly allowed legroom, should ordinary single beds were installed. Also,common beds would take up most floor space with a larger volume of remaining space inefficiently used. It seemed smartest to plan for two wide comfortable bunk beds as we were accustomed to this way of living from experiences in the mountains of northern Sweden.

Having removed all the old, damp, mouldy and smelly interior walling of the master bedroom, there remained the original 20mm insulation which was poorly packed between the original wooden squares of the caravan’s exterior walls. Should these squares be removed?

Using 25 mm Kingspan, I replaced the old insulation to the bedroom and filled up the rectangles of the interior wall. I also reinforced these walls where the bunk beds would be installed later. This gave the bedroom walls better strength and increased the u-value of that corner. I now had walls totaling 75 mm Kingspan insulation. Evaluating this, I decided that I would follow this path; keeping the original framework, insulating to 75mm and consequently increasing the caravan’s total u-value even more than first planned.

The interior bedroom walls were replaced with fresh plywood. Part of the original roof rafters were insulated with 25 mm Kingspan and “gortex” and finished off with 10 mm pine paneling for the ceiling. Later, the floor was covered with 6 mm laminate, which I bought locally second-hand via Internet. Bunk beds were built during wet days in March. See pics in gallery below.

Outside
After returning at the end of February and when the weather Gods were kind(er), I tore away the remaining aluminum on the second gable end, reinforced this in the same manner as the other exterior walls, added the wind/waterproof “gortex” material and finished off with the exterior cladding. I now could feel the caravan gained the stability and solidness that it needed for the harsh winds of Shetland. As a result, hardly no vibrating or tremors can be felt in this caravan’s body.

Recycling
Naturally, thoughts of recycling and the environment have been a part of this project and, as a little game, I had saved all the removed aluminium siding. Recently and with the last of the siding removed, I went to the dump. Surprisingly, the aluminum weighed in at 80 kg. At today’s rate, I drove away from the dump with an extra £32 in my back pocket. I thought this was fun and gave a little back to the costs of repairs. I wonder what the aluminum roof will weigh in at when I remove it?

Soon, hopefully
I want to change the roof. I have all the necessary rafters to a saddle-shaped roof prepared and soon will have the new metal roofing delivered. As soon as weather and wind permits, myself with some friends will rip off the old roof and put on the new. This report will come later…

By the way, the extension part of the caravan has been built in a fashion that will allow it to be removed, should the caravan be moved in the future. An explanation of this engineering feat will come later.

Repairing a Static Caravan 2

If you have ever experienced Shetland weather, you can understand the unpredictability and diversified nature of it. The repairs and modernization of this static caravan has taken time and the work has often been between raindrops and winds, often at the same time.

The first five weeks have past and, reflecting upon what has been accomplished, the original strategy has been followed. The outside conversion from a tin can caravan with rot has miraculously become a “Cinderella” of changes. This is what has happened…

The technical jargon
With start on the smaller gable end, I took away the caravan-like angled floor at the old tow bar area. I built this out, extending the floor and gaining 2 m2 and having a full 90° wall inside. Quite practical for putting a sofa or bed later along that wall. The humongous sitting room single glazed window had to go and, after its removal, I peeled off the aluminum siding and screwed on my treated 12 mm plywood to the wooden framework of the caravan; sealed with “mastic”, or polysulfide sealant, between each jointed section of plywood!

TIP: The wooden framework has no set measurements and, once covered, it’s trial and error finding a hold for screws or remembering where electrical lines are. To best resolve this problem, mark along the wooden base where the center line of the original vertical/horizontal framework is or where to avoid screwing into electrical lines, then use a water level to mark out your line along/up the sides as you work. I allowed myself no more that ±3mm margins with all measurements.

With plywood screwed on, I set up my baseline board with a water level. Made my vertical studs and positioned/screwed these onto the gable wall taking into consideration where I wanted the new windows to sit. Everything had to be horizontally and vertically correct, as these measurements would be identical for the whole outside wall work around the caravan. Distances between vertical studs are flexible depending upon window size and wall strength. It’s up to you!

After studding is completed, I insulated the walls using 50mm Kingspan. This is comparable to 150mm normal rockwool insulation but doesn’t take the same volume. Windows were lead-free polyethylene double-glazed energy saving and filled with argon gas. These costs and efforts I’m putting into the caravan will pay for themselves within 7 years through the “energy pennies” I’ll save.

After the insulation, wind and water resistant foil (I call it gortex) is stapled onto the studding and covers the whole wall. Treated wood paneling is tacked onto the studs with stainless steel wood screws following a bead from the level. Altogether, from the original caravan siding, I added on 97mm.

The floor was insulated with 100mm, 100% earthwool insulation. This made a big difference compared to the earlier 20mm carton material used for fish boxes.

Several weeks later
With all this work, the inside environment is comfy, warm and much more quiet from outside noise. It will probably be cooler on “warmer” days; if Shetland has these? The porch area is under construction just now, but it’s getting to be too late in winter to continue with it.

The major thing is, this caravan will be beautiful when it’s finished and comfortable to live in! A new roof will come later when weather permits. Let the pictures show the work and results up to now… (to be continued)

Repairing a Static Caravan…

…can be a no-brainer-don’t-do-it-you’re crazy kind of project to undertake, unless you are an experienced and stubborn skilled trades teacher with a will to solve problems that arise.
Having had the opportunity to acquire a small beast of a caravan on Shetland, this project will involve a complicated technical construction to convert it to a very inhabitable place to live on a wonderful patch of islands in the world. But, what is this project all about?

Photo: Initial inspection- looking for rot

Background: There are two types of caravans in the U.K. The increasingly popular touring caravan, hooked onto the back of a car and driven from site to site, and the larger static caravan that needs a more complicated means of moving and, by its name, is considered staying on its site for longer periods or permanently. In Sweden today, these are called a “Villavagn”, or “house wagon” and have become a new solution for owning or renting a summer cottage.

Static caravans in the U.K. have a long history of use as temporary summer or holiday dwellings as regulations in vacation laws for workers developed through the last century allowing time for workers and families to get out of large towns and relax. From what can be understood from Internet, static caravans are traditionally found near climatically stable and warmer areas of the U.K. i.e. like Cornwall, Devon, Wales etc., where the commute from larger cities (London) allows for a reasonable drive. They are now quite commonplace and have become more popular for permanent habitation all over the U.K. as economies are uncertain.

There are many large caravan parks for single unit rentals or one can purchase a static caravan on site and pay annual site fees to park owners. Static caravans are also popular to buy and live in due to on-site construction of private homes and sold off after the house is finished to live in.

The Project Caravan: The make and model is, as yet, unknown but probably originating from the early 1990’s. It has been first sold, then apparently traded in, cosmetically refurbished and re-sold again a number of times. When it was bought, it had been vacated for almost a year in a very tight and closed condition. On first inspection, there was a leafy fungus growing on the carpet and floor. The wet and smell of this environment is impossible to describe but the whole construction cried out for air.

First things first, out with everything that wasn’t rotted, mildewy or dirty beyond patience to cope with. It originally had two bedrooms but the smaller one gave way to the crowbar and a whole truckload of this scrap went to recycling. Once the windows had been opened and the drying sun came into it, the caravan could be heard sighing and thanking us.

After using one and a half weeks with discovering how this caravan was made and making attack plans for its repairs, I discovered that it basically is built with small sticks and thin plywood. The outside walls are 45mm thick and holding rusty and leaky single-glazed windows. The floor larger has no insulation and the roof is basically a skin of aluminum over a few bowed wooden supports.

When built, workers started with the iron chassis and added a plywood floor. On this floor came the outside walls followed by electrical work and furnishings screwed onto the 3mm masonite inside ceiling, some flimsy 20mm rafter things and finally the roof skin to hold everything together.

During my inspection, I found the indoor floor pretty stable but some parts along the bottom of the outside walls had acquired rot and need replaced. Any electrical wires needing replaced or taken away must be done when everything is opened up.

Preliminary Plans: Crawl underneath and insulate the floor. Since the walls are attached to the floor, I’m choosing to take off the aluminum siding (recycle for 40p per kilo) simultaneously screwing water repellant “marine” plywood to strengthen the structure. On the plywood goes vertical water repellant woods studs and, finally, peel back the roof skin as I place a new saddle roof on the new outside wall frame replacing the roof with marine plywood and a layer of…uh…metal roof sheeting. This all will be tricky with consideration for Shetland’s winds and rain. At the end, insulate with Kingspan, add a wooden cladding and install the new double-glazed windows.

I’ll end here for now…

Shetland’s Mining History

Skimming through pages of the Caledonian Mercury, Sept. 1790, the newspaper highlights Shetland’s early commercial mining attempts. “…the value of the Shetland Islands is only beginning to be known. There is now a number of miners sent … to work a copper and iron mine lately discovered…in the estates of Sumburgh and the iron in the estates of Quendale, both the most productive of this kind of any discovered in Britain.”

quendalemine01

    Photo: From 1790, the Quendale Copper Mine as it looks today

Naturally, this single report can raise eyebrows and give questions about Shetland’s mining history. The unlikelihood of a small North Atlantic group of islands being given such recognition is surprising, but the story behind this fact contains elements of rivalry, power, ignorance and years of blind investments leaving scars of disappointment in its wake.

Roots
It is difficult to point out exactly when Shetland’s mining history began. As early inhabitants crossed the hills and walked the shores of Shetland, they learned about rocks and stones, where these could be found and how these could be useful. Continue reading

Shetland Mines 01…

…Sometimes, the best place to be is in one ’s own thoughts, as long as you don’t get lost in them. Recently, I’ve contributed a small article on the mines of Shetland, and forgot that this website is a link for all who may want to know more. Thanks to a sharp Shetland Museum employee, I got the word that readers are waiting. A humble apology and many thanks for the wake-up signal!

Since this is only a blog, I don’t intend to follow research procedures in defense of content. This will come later in a peer-reviewed work. With small bits and pieces, my intentions are to excite readers about early Shetland mines, to learn a little about mining history and perhaps about their background; their own identity…their own heritage.

People ask me, “Why older mines?” I’m not really sure. I just want answers to my questions. For each question I answer, I get even more questions. And, so it keeps rolling on and on.

Shetland’s Mines
From the very first people arriving on the shores of Shetland, a need for the island’s rocks and minerals are apparent. As these people wandered over the hills and the land, they made observations of rocks and stones and skillfully learned where useful types could be found. When needed for any purpose, people went to these deposits and gathered what they needed. Rocks and stones were close by; at hand when needed.

One example of this is the need for shelter. The archeological excavation of Old Scatness is a great example of early people using Shetland rocks for dwellings. Another example is the need to keep warm. For whatever fuel was used, fires needed a spark. Shetland doesn’t have natural flint and ancient people learned that quartz could produce sparks and could start fires. And a third example is early Shetlanders needing household tools or implements for daily living.

catpundquarry02Photo: The ancient Catpund Quarry, Shetland. This is a scheduled area-please respect this.

The Catpund Quarry
Because of need and simple knowledge of rocks and geology, primitive Shetland people used what was available and knew where to find it. The Catpund Quarry is an example of where people over many years have exploited the serpentine, or soapstone, of Shetland to chisel out bowls, ladles, plates or decorative figurines for themselves or to barter and exchange with. Knowing that soapstone holds heat and is easily formed, it was a valuable commodity thousands of years ago.

At one time, this quarry was of interest for Robert Hunter Wingate Bruce up to 1924 and eventually for The Sumburgh Mining Co., apparently up to and around the early 1970’s. In accordance with the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act of 1979, the Catpund area was registered in the General Register of Sasines, counties of Orkney and Zetland October 28, 1988 (Ref. Historic Scotland) and was soon excavated afterward. (Uh oh! There I went and put in some researchy stuff! Sorry!)

Supposedly, there’s to be a book, or something, coming soon. With this, we will just have to wait and see. But, it is tempting to wonder just how many more of these ancient quarries can be found in Shetland and where?

For myself, I got an enormous thrill seeing this quarry for the first time. Having only seen mining remnants as early as the 17th century, Catpund gave the possibility of observing a quarry that is over 3000 years old and worked at different times; independent of each other.

Please give this place a visit or two. If traveling out of Lerwick, south on A970 and having passed through Cunningsburgh, estimate about 1 kilometer from the point of leaving Cunnigsburgh. On your right, you should see the “old” asphalted road. Park here and near the burn/bridge that can be found. Follow the burn immediately up the hill from your parked car, respecting the fencing and minding your step. About 250 meters, and along the burn, you should see a small fenced-off area. This is the Catpund Quarry. (Ordnance Survey Map 466- maps are fun) Clothes and shoes appropriate for the outdoors.

REMEMBER: This is a protected and scheduled area. Do Not Disturb…anything! Treat it like a crime scene. Much more must be learned from it. Just observe and enjoy.

For fun, ask yourselves these questions…

    How much of the stone has been removed out of the earth over the years?
    How big of an area all around was used?
    What tools did people use to chisel out bowls, plates etc.?
    How many unfinished implements can still be found waiting for its owner to return?
    What was the work like? Did they work in groups? Alone? Were children along?
    What have I learned from my visit? Did I enjoy it? Will I have use of this knowledge someday in the future?

Whew! Now, a couple of pictures from Catpund Quarry…for the less energetic!
catpundminevy05-copyPhoto: Panoramic view of Catpund Quarry area. In foreground dwellings possibly from Middle Ages
catpundquarry01Photo: Thousands of years ago, people chiseled out useful implements leaving shadows of these in the soapstone at Catpund Quarry

When Dad Died…

…a couple of years ago, I was home for his last week in this life. He had lived alone for a year and did a commendable job with clearing-out Mom’s things; she having passed away a year before. Having always said he loved life, it was now Dad’s turn to leave us. I think, as circumstances were, he was confused, sad, frustrated and scared that last week.

Once, the minister was there doing his job; seeing if he could be of help. I overheard him saying that things will be all right and Dad replying in a very horse voice, “I truly hope so”.

Thinking back, Dad had lived a hard life. Beaten as a child by a dominant father, struggling as a boy through the Great Depression and being bullied, having barely gotten through school. The last year, as I would call him every week, he would talk about things. Things that was personal and fond to him. Like being on the Gerber Farm.

Dad talked about being at the Gerber Farm and how much he enjoyed it. John and Ida Gerber owned the farm and had one son, Frank. The farm was somewhere near Alliance, Oh. Dad was there between 12 and 16 years of age (during the 1930’s) and would live several weeks during the year with the Gerbers, sort of to ease the situation at his own home. As he talked, he seemed to think of them as second parents. He was just like a member of the family, went to church with them, had dinners and it was a get-away for him and, perhaps, a pleasant alternative from his life with his real family.

Sometimes, he would be with them even on holidays and school breaks but most of the time it was summers and as a helper. He would take a trolley or train from Massillon to Alliance or that Dad’s father, Albertum (Burt), would arrange alternate ways.

As he spoke of the Gerbers, he had a nice sparkle in his eye, one of remembrance. He said he would really want to go back up there to see what the place looked like, just one more time.

He had a good relationship with these people, except Frank who would play tricks on this “helper”. John and Ida would give Dad clothes to wear and, as Dad said, they took the time to teach him important things, both with being a farm helper and about life in general. Dad was responsible with keeping the barn clean and keeping things straight. John had often told Dad that he did a good job and was a very good worker.

Once, when Dad arrived to the farm, John Gerber had bought 100 baby chicks, or “peeps” for one dollar. He gave these to Dad to do with, as he wanted. Well, Dad liked the peeps and had no idea about what to do with them. People nearby knew about his peeps and asked Dad what he was going to do with them? Dad didn’t know other than that he had to take care of them, and that’s what he was going to do.

Because of his other chores, Ida said she could take care of them for Dad but would want pay for her work. Dad said that was O.K. and laughed at this, because he didn’t have any money and so the deal wouldn’t be any problem.

Ida took care of the chicks as they grew. She fed them. After a time, when the chicks were older, she killed them, picked the feathers off, sold some but prepared the rest as meals for themselves. She sat down with Dad and, in black and white, showed him all the costs. She tallied the initial investment, her labour, the cost of feed and a pen for them as well as what she had sold. Dad got a very good lesson in business economy from this.

When it was all counted up after expenditures, Dad had made a profit of four and a half dollars. Dad smiled and said, “it was a chunk of money for those times.”

dad_img-copyAs a father with a family, Dad always had his heart “ out in the country”. Whether it was the houses we lived in, the baling of hay as boys at “the old farmhouse”, Kidron auctions, tomato gardens, new mown hay or smell of manure being spread on the fields at springtime, the country never left Dad. It was that single sparkle that fathers keep in their shirt pockets, when real life can be cruel; when life doesn’t turn out like one wishes.

For myself, I miss Dad! I miss chatting with him over the phone. I miss listening to him reminisce. I miss his subtle humor. I miss his postcards; his Christmas cards, his letters, his bundles of paper, his awkward handwriting. I miss…

He’s resting with Mom at Stanwood cemetery now. But, more so, I truly hope things “became all right” for him and he’s elsewhere…on a farm…enjoying it…and finally living his dream.

PS– Written because we watched a cow give birth to its calf on a farm in Quendale today! The familiar smell of spring work in the air, too.

My Saami Walking Stick…

…was a subject for comment today, as we were preparing to jump into Jeppe and take a walk on Houss, the southern point of East Burra, Shetland. A local resident came by and, as I was putting my walking stick in the vehicle, the person said something like, “Well, ya taking your spear with ya?” My first thought was, “Spear? What spear?”, but understanding that he didn’t know about it, I quickly mentioned it was a Saami style walking stick.

Afterwards, I felt it was high-time I wrote about a Saami walking stick. Perhaps other Shetlanders, who see me walking around with it in my hand on walks, or a portion of Swedish or international readers, would find this topic interesting. The walking stick and its use has been superbly developed by the Saami for thousands of years. So, let’s take time to explore the wonders of, what I call, the Saami walking stick.

Photo: In the Swedish mountains, the Saami walking stick means safety and friendship when alone

Photo: In the Swedish mountains, the Saami walking stick means safety and friendship when alone

Construction and Use
Basically, the material is birch. Birch has the qualities of an intertwining fiber, making it exceptionally strong, and considerably lightweight when dried. When choosing a stick, one wants a young tree specimen, as uniform in thickness along its length as possible, but thick enough to support the weight of its user plus the weight of a backpack. It should be as straight as possible with few branches, so it isn’t so knotty or rough. When these ingredients are had, the total length defined should be at least a little more than the length of its user.

Since birch is abundant in northern Sweden, it can be smart to choose several walking stick specimens until you understand and recognize what is best for you. If needed, ask permission from the landowner.

Once chosen, you will shave the birch bark off the stick. This helps with the drying process. A new green walking stick will be soft and flexible. After removing the bark, it will dry and become stiffer and harder during the summer. Also, cut and smooth away the branch parts. This should leave the stick smooth and allow your hands to glide along the length of it.

Once made, the Saami Walking stick is to be carried, either in a hand or cradled like a rifle, and used to give support to the upper weight of the user with a backpack or when wading across deep rushing streams, which is why it should be a little longer than the user. The thicker end of the stick points downwards as you use it. This allows for a more gentle swing, weight at bottom, with a back to front movement. It is to be used to keep balance on stones or uneven ground to prevent slipping or twisting an ankle, which can be a life or death situation when in the Swedish mountains.

The stick is not supposed to be used as an “elbow warmer”. In other words, it isn’t supposed to be held upright in your hand and mark-off every other step as you’re walking/hiking. You can shift hands or positions while hiking. Should you twist an ankle, the walking stick can be your “third leg” to safety. So, take care of it as a good friend.

On Shetland
Now, Why did I take a Saami walking stick to Shetland? Well, there are a few good reasons.

Shetland doesn’t have any trees and there isn’t anything natural around to lean up against. My Saami walking stick allows me something to lean and rest on at shoulder height. It often helps me keep balance as I walk the countryside, since I look around a lot and not pay attention to the ground. Shetland is littered with hundreds of rabbit holes half-hidden in the grass. I also have use for it as a portable monopod when I use my binoculars or camera instead of finding a suitable rock to crouch down at. My walking stick is 2 mt and I can use it as a measuring tool.

Photo: Whale Wick, with its cliffs and jagged rocks, is one example of Shetland's coastline

Photo: Whale Wick, with its cliffs and jagged rocks, is one example of Shetland's coastline

And finally, I knew that Shetland has a shoreline of rocky cliffs with strong winds. So, besides the function of making walks or climbing easier, I wanted the safety of a three-point base when near the edge of Shetland cliffs during wet windy weather. Don’t want an unnecessary newspaper article, do we? .

So, anybody out there wondering why I carry a “spear” around with me, it’s O.K! I understand. I just know that I’m in safer hands with my Saami walking stick than if I was without, and I’m glad that the chances of getting hurt or falling while walking alone are less when I carry it with me.

Ocean Garbage…

…is a fact that inlanders hardly are aware of. Possibly, when visiting a coastline during vacation, through a television program or the isolated article in the local newspaper, people living away from salty shores may get a small insight of all the refuse and waste that exists in the oceans. It wasn’t until I started walking the shores along Shetland that the variety and amount of floating scrap became apparent, and I earlier wouldn’t or couldn’t conceive how the world is polluting the seas until coming to this tiny group of Atlantic islands.

And, the garbage is very real! While taking walks along a nearby part of Shetland’s shores, the beachcomber comes out in me. Eyes pointed downwards, I search the deposits of freshly washed up kelp for some special seashell, piece of wood, hunk of amber or rare maritime artifact but, after a short time, realize that a large percentage of beached debris is manmade polyethylene.

The garbage becomes more apparent as I glance higher up along the beach or shore, where many years of accumulated crap can be found. It’s mind-boggling with the ropes and netting material, plastic containers and water bottles that are pushed on shore or slowly disappearing into the sands. One distressing thought is the seals, dolphins or birds that can, and do, get tangled into this junk.

Occasionally, I can consider who’s to blame for this mess. It isn’t Shetland’s fault that somebody else’s garbage blows up on its shoreline! It’s hardly the fault of the people visiting the beaches, though in some cases the odd soda can or forgotten shoe can be had. And, can one really blame the ships or fishing vessels out to sea, when fighting heavy winds as their fishing nets are torn away or loose equipment wash overboard?

If I remember right, about three times more garbage is thrown into the seas than the amount of fish taken. And, there is so much debate about EU fishing quotas and so little said about keeping the ocean clean…? It just seems baffling. Where are the champions for keeping our oceans clean?
Photo:Meal Beach

In an attempt to suggest something positive, I want to highlight that Shetland sets aside time and money to clean-up its shores. Each year, residents are invited to participate in a road and shore clean-up and literally hundreds take time to handpick scrap off of the beaches etc. The council provides and allocates funds for pick-up and hauling of the collected garbage.

I think this is commendable! Both the council and especially the volunteers need to be patted on their backs for this great effort. Unfortunately, the crap keeps blowing in from the seas at a regular pace and almost defeats the purpose.

Think, if more and more of us would refuse using non-degradable polyethylene where possible? One idea that I try to practice, is to pick-up some beach scrap and carry it home for disposal each time I go for a walk. Think if everyone did this as they visit Shetland’s shoreline? Could be a great habit and good idea?