Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gunnebo House (Castle) & Gardens

This for me started out for me as one of those journeys where, "Oh man, not another boring trip to Göteborg and viewing the sites of some ancient historical rich European Aristocrat" ? For me, once you've seen one castle you've seen them all and I don't care what country it is located. I learned this the hard way back in 1976 when a friend of mine and I came to Europe and hit almost every famous Castle Landmark to be found on a tourist map. Besides , I hate going to town (Göteborg) or any other city on the planet for that matter. So I would have prefered staying home, but I'm glad I went. Besides we were going with some good friends we haven't seen in a long while.

For a further read on the actual estate, when built, who built it and so forth, please visit this website. I won't be going into those particulars much here.


Okay, let's get through some of the formal gardens and buildings settings first. This first picture is of an Oak Tree native to Sweden called Quercus robur. It's the most common found all over Europe and goes by many common names. What intrigued me about this one is the many wildlife features like holes and other cavities for various birds and small animals to live. Something that I find rather lacking in most Swedish woods I see. This oak was on the pathway walking up to the Estate.

Then just below this tree was this nature sign explaining a bit of what I already figured out by just looking at the tree.

Ek (Oak)

' For a few thousand years, the oak was the most common tree in the western Swedish deciduous forest. An oak can be very old, at least 1,000 years.

In the dense oak forests oak tree growth habit is a straight trunk and narrow crown. Stand alone out in the open oaks, have a short, rough trunk and very broad crown, with a typical large round appearance.

The oak harbors very rich insect life. In England it has about 600 species of insects associated with this oak. There are many endangered insects in Sweden, especially beetles living on these ancient oaks. Several common insects are also available in oak, such as
'Ekvecklaren' (oak folding holder = don't ask, just name of insect). It is a small moth whose larvae can almost overwhelm the  trees in some years. The oak trees survives them though to form new leaves anyway. '

Okay, now for more of the main estate building and formal gardens.

Yeah, yeah yeah. Let's move this along and get it over with. This first shot is of our friends and their young boy.

The vegetable & Spice/herb garden above is where I was roped into an interview questionaire by a young girl there whose job it was to find out what visitor impression are of the Estate Park. She asked what I thought about these gardens and I replied that I'd have to wait a bit for most of the woodlands to first emerge totally from it's winter slumber. Believe it or not total Spring bloom was still beginning for many things.

Below you can see where they actually cut down and utilized some of the wood itself from this Estate and milled their own lumber from the trees for some of their building projects like the shelter in the photo here below.

Well, they've got to have something for the kids. Kids will only take so much of the hiking trails. This wooden cow was located just behind the horse barn. (BTW, Barn is the Swedish word for Child - don't ask, it just is)

Now let's take that walk in the woods. Whay excited me about this part of the adventure, was that it was like going back in time to what Swedish forests use to look like. Most of southern and western Swedish forests were generally mostly dominated by old growth Oak Forests with a widely varied mixture of other old growth Alder, Aspen, European Mountain Ash, Norway Maple, Willows, etc. But oak was the most prominent.

With this type of biodiverse forest like we visted this day the forest is alive with the sounds of animals and multiple species of birdlife, something saldy lacking in most all Swedish forests which are industrially managed with failed out-dated science-based technology which replaces the already perfected wild original program. Most Swedish forests have been horribly clear cut and replaced by tree planting with monoculture of pines or firs for lumber or mostly pulp wood production for paper. This will be discussed in a link at the end of this post.

The picture above is an example of what a closed forest environment will do to any tree in shaping it throughout it's life for later valuable usage by mankind. Unlike the oak found in or on the edge of a meadow which will have a stout truck and multibranched round large crown pattern.

Take a look at these Norway Maple trees. Here's the parent tree followed by hundreds of seedling trees most likely to never make it through the canopy unless they get lucky by various environmental circumstances. Trees like these need a nurse tree. Maples won't amount to much out in the open. Mostly I've seen them stunted and shrubby looking, same with oaks trees. Very rarely do you find them volunteering out in the open.

Okay this photo above is an Oak tree with a tiny hole in it where a branch was at one time but has since rotted out. This tiny hole provides nesting for a slender dainty little forest bird, but I don't know the name. I'll get back with it, but I've seen this small bird utilize just about any small crevice in a rock wall or under a bridge beam.

These following shots are of a train that past over head, and I love trains, so had to take this shot. Also some shots of my wife and our friends walking through the meadow and some shots of forest floor thinning and then finally the old growth oak forests view at the end in all it's wild glory as we left.

More nature explanations about the local birdlife and while they are not so visable in the pictures, there is a rather large Swedish forest pigeon which is similar to the ones up in the forests of Idyllwild California where I use to live. Like the California pigeons, these are extremely shy as well and hard to get near for taking a photograph, unless you have the right powerful lense. These birds are nothing like their pesky nusiance domestic city dewelling cousins. They group together scratching around on the ground looking for food and look very much like a large covey of quail foraging the ground with one male as lookout. 

And finally the old growth Oak Woodland beauty at the end of our hike.

Now down below all that old growth Oak Woodland habitat is an area around the parking lot down in a river valley with a lake where there are a lot of natural boggy conditions. This environment for the most part is where the pure stands of Björk (Birch) and other wet habitat loving plants also prefer to reside.

This concludes this part, but previously I have written about the irresponsible way industrial forestry has been the mismanagement order of the day throughout Europe, not just Scandinavia. Follow the link below and be ready for a shocking contrast from what you've just viewed above.



When Ideology Becomes Nature: 'The Pulp Fiction of Industrial Forestry'

Nature World News
Many folks will have heard of the infamous Swastika Forest made up of yellow Larch Trees that revealed themselves every spring and fall for brief periods just outside of Berlin, Germany.  The tree's leaves, which turned yellow at the end of every year, stood out against an otherwise evergreen conifer forest. The trees covered a 3,600 sq meter (4,300 sq yd) area where the Nazi symbol was only discovered after the new unified German government conducted aerial surveys of the newly acquired state-owned landscape. This German swastika which was created back in the 1930s, no doubt by bogus Hitler Youth conservation forest programs, certainly isn't the first time human beings have manipulated living trees for their own vulgar ideological purposes.

When I first came to Scandinavia, the very first thing which came to my mind were the Idyllic scenes of pristine forests properly managed by a culture practically said to have Eco-Green genetic material actually encoded into their very DNA. At least that's what all the propaganda brochures told me. Seriously, in my view such beautiful country settings as seen below would surely be the norm when I went for a walk in the woods.

Sweden has given itself through a sophisticated marketing and public relations campaign the reputation as being the world's most environmentally progressive nation for which all other nations must model themselves after the Scandinavian pattern. Sad to say, it's these inept special interest forestry laws that have been allowed to be decided upon by the timber companies themselves and as a result, large checker boards swaths of a once biodiverse landscapes have been corrupted in the economic interests of harvesting such indigenous natural resources for sale to world markets across the globe. Take a look at some pictures below which clearly illustrate the reality of the Swedish countryside many foreigners quite often do not see.

Photo by Silvaskog AB

We instead are treated to a lifeless monoculture crop forest plantation in which very little wildlife if any is able to eek out a living. This includes various birds and squirrels. There usually is no greenery of multispecies of forest floor plants under the dense dark canopy. These trees are force shaped and eventually thinned to develop the desired cash crop for the landowner and forestry company. The photo below illustrates the lack of other biological life within the boundaries of just such an Industrial Forestry situation. Much like industrial dark enclosed Mega-Poultry Houses or Beef Feedlots where the animals are forced into an unhealthful maturity, so trees are dealt with in the same manner. Most all wildlife is unable to make any type of living under this industrially force grown canopy.

It should be noted that this failure of responsible custodianship of the land is not unique to Scandinavia, but across the whole of Europe as well. I have seen this same exact improper land management in Germany, Poland and elsewhere in the European Union, but it's interesting how this News item is never really documented to folks over in the USA by the political groups that want North America to be the carbon copy of everything E.U.  The USA  also has it's own set of unique failed land management policies and neither of the two major political entities have the answers for correcting the situation for the benefit of sustainable environments.

Below is an interesting documentary which offers a view of what is happening in the country of Latvia, but it also clearly illustrates what is wrong with every country around the globe. Any country's economic problems are quick fixed with cash from it's own natural resources. Obtaining these resources is very destructive and there are no real solutions on the table for handling things with a more effective holistic solution. Give yourself about 25 minutes to watch this documentary and remember to keep in mind that this is just not a Latvian problem. The video is 25 minutes in length.
People & Power - Latvia's pulp fiction

In Scandinavia, much of the forest plantations as mentioned earlier are monoculture conifer crops replanted and it must be noted that there is a vast difference between the terms forest and plantation. A forest is biodiverse and healthy. A plantation is monocultured to allow only one or two living things (in this case firs & pines) to grow and prosper with the surrounding environment devoid of all other life. Incredibly terms and stats are manipulated to colour the Ecological picture from the reality of what some of these governments and corporations  want the public to know and understand. For example, more forested land will be reported than what actually exists in reality. Tree plantations freshly planted with 10s of thousands of few inch high trees are considered a forest in the record books. Take a look at the photo below. Would you call this an actual forest ?

Image - (WRM)

Stora Enso and GM trees (Swedish & Finnish Company)

How many reading believe the above picture is a forest by the traditional definition and not the Big Business economically re-defined for political expediency definition ? Funny how opponents of  Chaparral ecosystems refuse to even give Chaparral consideration as a real biodiverse Elfin Forest, yet 10s of 1000s of 4-6 inch high conifer seedlings are suddenly considered a forest on the paperwork ? Why the hypocrisy ? This bogus forest definition shell game reminds me of something just as stupid and idiotic the Sate of California did back in the 1990s. They went through and redefined what was considered to be violent crime. Why it was said that the world had changed to a more enlightened age and a redefinition of what we now know and consider violent crime to be was in order. So many crimes formerly considered as a violent crime were now a misdemeanor. Suddenly the Violent Crime Statistics for California were far much lower than before and added greatly to the Public Relations propaganda for state tourism, economy and living standards brochure which now looked much brighter to economic interests outside the State. I also remember is how we all joked about this stunt way back then knowing full well the truth of the reasons behind it. So the redefinition shell game of calling a massive clear cut landscape replanted with a monoculture of 6 inch conifer seedlings is no different when it comes to the we're Eco-Green Scandinavians Public Relations  game. This then allows them to point the finger around to the rest of the planet to those evil countries not getting with the Green Solutions Program.

The problem here with the average Scandinavian citizen is that they won't see their country/s as an equally unhealthy mess as any other country on the planet. What they see with their untrained ideologically trained eye is GREEN everywhere, therefore we must be doing something right. What they don't realize or understand is that this place is only green because it continually rains here all the time. Take that away and things seriously start turning Brown & Dry rapidly. This actually happened a few years back when it didn't rain for a month and a half in spring of 2008. Many of the various plant ecosystems here are not that deeply rooted and untrained shallow rooted plants which have no need of growing deeper into the soil suffered great die back. Given climate change possibilities (especially the latest report on Scandinavia being hit the hardest in Europe by climate change), this could at anytime change over night, despite their flawed ideological view that nothing bad happens to Sweden. Every country on Earth has it's own politically  flavoured brand of Kool-Aid and it takes a discerning responsible educated palate to know when they are being given the ideological shaft.

The other incredible thing over here in Scandinavia is that most of the manual labor for replanting these clear cut forests are done by guest workers from underdeveloped countries like Nigeria and Cameroon who are promised good money for their labor. It's certainly not being accomplished by the more affluent homogeneous blonde haired blue eyed natives who view such work beneath them. Ironically, I always thought from the News Media reports where I originally come from that such a thing was unique only to the United States. Well as Gomer Pyle USMC would say - "Surprise , Surprise , Surprise" it's not just the USA, it's also an E.U. issue as well. Funny how I've never heard any of this before moving over here. Like the States with it's Hispanic Entrepreneurial hucksters taking advantage of their own countrymen, many of the formerly African business sub-contractors who are also from those African native lands take a great deal of advantage of their fellow countryman who are truly at their mercy. They are often not paid as promised and are often times left stranded when time to go home.

Dare we forget our wonderful friends from IKEA who harvest of the old growth forests over in RussiaSwedwood Karelia LLC owns a logging concession of over 740,000 acres of Old Growth Trees. The entire globe has all of these same issues referenced above. It's not just a Scandinavian or an E.U. problem. It's a global issue.  Recently the Swedish Company IKEA was exposed for buying old growth forest wood from Russia by a company called Swedwood Karelia LLC for manufacturing it's line of cheap furniture goods. This was all exposed by a Swedish Media Watch Dog Group which exposed IKEA for it's  contribution in harming the biodiversity of Siberian forests. Pity this group couldn't see it's country's own lack of old growth forests through the dense Industrial Planations trees. But Industrial forestry isn't through there yet either. Take a look at the Canadian documentary called "A Silent Forest" which is narrated by Geneticist David Suzuki. Genetically Modified Forest Trees are the Franken-Organism of the future, but with massive amounts of flaws and consequences released out into the natural world in the form of genetic pollution. Give yourself about 46 minutes to watch this enlightening, yet very scary real threat to the natural world all in the name of global progressive economics.

For a time warp view of what Swedish natural forests use to look like, follow the link here to our trip to a place outside of Göteborg Sweden where beautiful examples of old growth Oak Woodland still exist in pockets. This example of woodland was the most common type of habitat centuries ago before wood sailing ship building industry came along in southern and western Sweden.

Gunnebo Estate or Castle and Gardens

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Helsinki Trip and the Urban Woodlands

This is a quick post on my trip to Helsinki Finland last week. I didn't really take pictures of the city at all mostly because of my strong dislike of anything City-ish. Here are some pics from a walk I took outside of my friend's house.

Like Sweden, the plant community is almost identical. The other familar thing is the great amount of trail and pathway work they put into their city nature areas which include constant lighted areas all along the pathways. This walk believe it or not was after 9:00pm at night. Remember this country is near the Arctic Circle.

Okay Okay so I took a slight detour off the proper pathway into a more natural one

This plant is even common to Sweden and is found blooming only in early Springtime.

One of the things I appreciated about this walk is the plant biodiversity which also resulted in a great many biodiverse animals and birdlife. The forest was ringing and echoing with the sounds of songbirds even this late in the evening, not that you'd know it was late of course.

These next two picture are of the tree stumps and fallen logs left in the forest. I'll give them credit for leaving alot of these plus many tree snags or tall dead tree trunks which offers wildlife, especially cavity nesting birds to find holes to nest in. The first two pictures I took because I love logs with mosses, lichens and mushrooms on them. The third one is a large tall dead tree trunk and you can see how a woodpecker has started drilling a hole in it for nesting. Later it most likely will be used by some other species of forest bird and all the cycles continue.

Scandinavia has alot of bogs everywhere and these plants love wet moist areas. I'm not exactly sure what they were, but they were going to flower almost certainly very soon.

I got myself back onto the pathway where all the hiking and bicycling traffic was and headed into a large open field on the other side of the woods. The field turned out to be a Golf Driving Range.

After that came back to the apartment of my new found friend from Shanghai China who's been living in Finland for 17 years already. He was our hospitality servant for those five days. I really miss him now. But we'll keep in touch.
Now was the day I was leaving. Just before I jumped into the car to catch my ride back to the Airport and home back to Göteborg, I couldn't resist one city photo shot. See if you can guess why I took this!!!  I already miss his Chinese cooking.