Sunday, July 15, 2018

It's been a great two weeks

We're back in London now after a fantastic time spent in our second home. The weather has remained sunny (and worryingly, dry) the whole two weeks.  Some of the highlights:

  • Marcia, Rutger and Camille came for the first weekend.
  • The boat is out of storage and after a washup, it was in great shape. 
  • We went to the old Guns Livs on Nämdö. The restaurant isn't open yet, and the store is operating at half capacity, but the new owners are talking a great story for the future.
  • The Nämdö library was open the day we visited and we spoke to Gunilla about the fibre installation. Lots of work was evident on the island; power cables are being laid on the ground along with the fiber cables. Eventually all of the power poles will be taken away, which will improve the views. She told us the same work will start in a few months on Aspö. I'm becoming increasingly confident that we will have fiber installed next year.
  • We attended the yearly island meeting, and Sooz followed along with the proceedings pretty well!
  • Sooz also did a bit of morning yoga, and she attended the jewelry-making class on Ladholmen.
  • We had a nice dinner with Peter and Jeanette at our place, and a lovely meal at Annika and Olle's.
  • The World Cup kept us all entertained, and we gathered in Sofia and Johan's barn to watch the Sweden-England quarterfinal.
  • Sooz arranged two successful Mat Hem deliveries. We have plenty of food now!!!
  • Ove, the painter, came by to paint our little house with the linseed oil paint and it looks a lot better.
  • I didn't have too many building tasks this time around but I managed to keep myself entertained with lots of little jobs.

There is a photo album available of all these activities on my Flickr page.

We'll be back for a long weekend in a few weeks, so stay tuned for more to come!

Monday, July 2, 2018

June's weather

A calm month out on Aspö. One thing that's interesting is the rain as measured by my station. I know it did rain a bit that month, although I'm not convinced it totaled a half-inch. The official weather report for Stockholm showed no precipitation at all on June (or May for that matter).

Whether or not it rained a bit on Aspö this past month, there is a significant drought underway. It's apparent when walking around our island, and there is no rain in the forecast for the next few weeks.

It's a double-edged sword, as we love the sunshine and warmth, but the health of our island is starting to be impacted too....

Sunday, June 24, 2018

More changes

Today's my birthday, which is always important to me as an Aspö resident. A key reason it that it falls around midsummer; sometimes it coincides exactly with the holiday. I like to think all of Sweden is celebrating my birthday with me! The other reason is that our house had its coming-out party on my 50th birthday, and that remains one of the most special days I've ever enjoyed.

Today I have another announcement to make regarding our life on Aspö. Over the decade I've been writing this blog, I've moved to Texas, left my job of 31 years, had a period of semi-retirement, and moved back to London with a new employer.

Recently, Sooz and I have decided to actually retire for good and move into the next phase of our lives. I will stop working at the beginning of next year, and Sooz and I will spend next summer at our stuga. Our plan from now on will be to spend summer months on Aspö, and the remaining months someplace warm.

For the rest of this year, there wan't be much change for us or this blog. But starting in 2019, there will be an increase in activity. Visiting our house for a few weeks is a lot different to more or less living there for a few months.

We have been thinking about some of the things we will need to do, but I am sure there will be lots of things we haven't thought about. We'll share the journey as the blog moves into its next decade!

Friday, June 22, 2018

Glad Midsommar!

Wishing a happy holiday to everyone from London this year. We've decided to wait a bit and spend our summer vacation later in July this year.

It looks like we made the right call, too. As every Swede has feared, the seven consecutive weeks of nice weather ended just in time for the big weekend. Typical rainy and chilly weather has prevailed for the dance around the maypole.

Let's hope it warms up for our visit!

Monday, June 4, 2018

May's weather

There's been a nice warming trend all month. The bigger story, though, is how dry and sunny it has been. Since the rain of May 4th (ironically when we were visiting), Sweden has enjoyed blue skies. It has been glorious, true, but this dry period is starting to be worrying. 

Especially for us island residents, the dry weather can become a problem. There are fire hazards and stress on flora and fauna. More personally, we all rely on our wells, and a long dry snap will stress our water supplies.

Let's see what June brings us. Odds are historically high that it will rain over Midsummer!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

A fabulous weekend!

We went back to Aspö this past weekend, bringing along Sooz's childhood friend, Lauris, on her first visit to the island.

The weather was spectacular. In fact, we're starting to worry that it's been too sunny and nice. But we all enjoyed the fine weather nevertheless. Flowers were in bloom everywhere, and the girls got to work on their tans.

Annik sand Olle took us out for a ride on their boat, and we visited Guns Livs on Nämdö to see what the new owners were up to. We had a nice chat with the new manager, who filled us in with their plans for the future. This summer will be pretty much the same with the grocery and cafe, but there will be a lot of work to upgrade the facilities over this winter to prepare for a new start in 2019.

I have a small photo page up of our visit. We will be back for the first two weeks of July, and we can't wait!

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Unintended consequences

I posted over two years ago about Sweden's progress in becoming a cashless society. I can report that project is still on track. It's no longer a surprise to find small shops that take cards these days; I find more and more places that refuse to take cash last all. Some in the government are wondering if things are changing too fast.

The scarcity of cash is causing Sweden's criminals to change their behavior. A recent article in The Atlantic points out that besides fraud and cybercrime being on the rise, so is old-fashioned theft of valuable objects.

Going cashless can certainly help the tax authorities, and it is much more convenient for the seller and buyer alike. But sometimes fixing one problem just causes another...

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Report from the island

We're back from a surprisingly eventful week. The weather the first few days wasn't great, but it became glorious the past few days. Although we hadn't planned it, we were able to have dinner with Annika and Olle, Peter and Jeanette (with Niklas and Noelle), and drinks with Tony and Ann-Catrin. So a much more social time than we had planned, which was great!

The house was in great shape, save one little issue I'll blog about in an upcoming post. We did our usual tree-trimming and brush clearing. I helped Bo's boat get into the water; we're going to wait a bit to float ours, though.

One bit of excitement (for me at least) was that the fibre-optic cable has made landfall on Aspö! The plan is for it to be installed around the island in the second part of next year. Vattenfall are going to be replacing the old poles and overhead wires with underground cables, which I think is a great idea. Those old poles are unsightly and require a lot of maintenance. The fibre will be laid along the power cables, so I may soon, at long last, have broadband at our little home. There's a picture of the cable (with lots else) on my photo page.

On our last day, we went into town early and finally I got to visit the ABBA Museum. To say I enjoyed it is an understatement! We had dinner that evening with Janne and Margaret, who were in good form. They are planning to visit us on Aspö when we're back in July.

Before that July trip, we are making another visit late in May for the bank holiday. One of Sooz's girlfriends from the US will be joining us. We always love to introduce new friends to the island.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

April's weather

It's getting slowly warmer over the month. What's interesting is the sharper rise in the indoor temperature. That's driven by the increased sunshine as we pass the vernal equinox. The house is being warmed through the big windows in the afternoons. There will likely be days in July when it's too hot! But I look forward to having that as a problem.

I left the sound meter reading in just for fun. It's quite obvious when we're home!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Heading back soon!

Sorry for the lack of posts, lots has been going on lately. We are back to the house for a week's visit in a few days. I will get a photo page up and I promise to start posting more regularly soon.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

March's weather

A slow and steady climb bringing us above freezing throughout the month, with the exception of a cold snap on March 26. There were a few snowy days in the middle of the month, but it's been worryingly dry since. We could use a wet spring to replenish our ground water for sure!

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Thousand Islands

I've read an interesting article in the Washington Post about the "Thousand Islands" in the St. Lawrence river.

There are actually over 1800 islands in the archipelago on the US-Canada border, some of which are huge, and some of which are very, very small.

Pictured here is the aptly-named "Just Room Enough" Island.

The Canadian side of the archipelago is a national park, and the area is also a world-renown biodiversity site. Amusing Planet has lots of beautiful photos of the area. It certainly reminds me of our own archipelago!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Modernism in Gotland

The New York Times magazine has a long article about Gotland this week. It touches on Swedish culture, the role of Gotland in the summertime, and a crop of modernist buildings going up in a very traditional environment. It's worth a read!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

A possible fireplace?

One thing our recent visit showed us was that we would really need a fireplace if we ever want to spend time at our house in the cold weather. I've written about fireplaces many times on the blog but I've not seen one that made me think "wow"!

Marcia sent me a photo of a fireplace with the "wow" factor. It's by Focus fireplaces, who do a number of high-fashion models.  This one is the Slimfocus, and it's gorgeous:

One company in Sweden sells these fireplaces and I've contacted them for information. My fear is that it will be very expensive, but we'll see. I will report back.

UPDATE: I heard from them. The base model is 117,000 kronor (over $14,000). Installation is extra. I don't think I'll be buying one...

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

We're back!

We managed to get out of Gatwick before the forecasted snowfall and accomplished a straightforward train-airport-bus-boat journey straight to our house. As I thought, the house was warm but not exactly toasty when we arrived. In fairness, it was a tough task for our luftpump to warm up our house from such a cold start. A few hours with the radiators and all was well.

The house was, as usual, in fine shape. There was about 6 inches of powdery snow on the deck. We were able to sweep it away easily. It was strange (for me at least) to be at the house and not have lots of projects. Fortunately, I had lots of emails to keep me busy!

Friday was grey and miserable outside but Saturday was sunny and beautiful. We had our usually wonderful dinner at Annika and Olle's house on Saturday night, and we watched Melodifestival as well. Before we left on Sunday morning, we watched the Vasaloppet on TV, which was a lot more entertaining than we expected.

I have a photo page of our icy island for anyone interested.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Leaving soon!

It looks like we've picked a frigid weekend to for our visit. Both Sweden and the UK are being hit by a blast of arctic air.

I set the luftpump to 8°C Sunday morning when it was -2° in the house. It didn't take long for the house to warm up to that level. After a few days of that, I ramped it up to 15°, and it appears the cold weather outside (as low as -12°) is making it hard for the house to get any warmer.

We won't be arriving at a cold house, but I'm not sure just how warm it will be!

Friday, February 16, 2018

A weekend visit

We're going to make a rare cold-weather visit to our stuga at the end of the month. Now that we have our remote-control luftpump, we can have the house nice and toasty for our arrival.

I'll be sure to post lots of photos of winter life on the island!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

January's weather

I'm missing the first few days of January, because as I reported last month, I had a fault with my weather station that Annika and Olle fixed for me on a visit to the house. So, without further ado:

It's pretty clear that a warm and wet weather front came in around the 23rd. Sadly though, it brought only a half-inch of rain in total. We could definitely use a lot more rain (or snow) this winter to replenish our groundwater.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Guns Livs is no more

I've written many times in the past about Guns Livs, the grocery store on Nämdö. Its been in the same family for over 50 years. People's options about Guns on Aspö are divided. Some of us find its slightly worn-out store and spotty service part of its charm. Others long for a bit more professionalism and modern service.

This past summer was the last one for Guns and her family. The store, restaurant, and marina has was sold to new owners, who stayed mysteriously quiet until the end of the year. 

It turns out that the transaction took longer to complete than planned, but now the new owners have published their vision on the Gunslivs website. The key statement is this:

In the coming years of 2018 we will of course keep the store, the restaurant and the marina open as usual. But a little change will be noticeable already next year - we will clean, paint and freshen up. We want to get to know Nämdö, its conditions, residents and visitors.

From 2019 onwards we want to further develop the existing grocery with expanded range and better service and accessibility. The bar will have a facelift - both interior / exterior. Here we want to create a meeting place in the archipelago where everyone can socialize and enjoy the amazing environment, good food and drink. We also want to invest in archipelago leisure activities and offer a modern and interesting range. Together with the municipality we want to continue to develop accommodation for more year-round accommodation and accommodation for tourists. This in order for Nämdö to be an obvious centerpiece in the archipelago - a unique place for reflection and recreation as well as adventure.

The general approach is that the new owners want to expand Nämdö to become more of a "living" archipelago. They stress that this is closely in line with the kommun's plan to maintain a sustainable archipelago. It's an interesting balance between keeping things simple and charming but perhaps a bit shabby, and offering more modern amenities to draw new people to the area and allow it to thrive.

This will be an interesting development to watch over the next few summers!

Saturday, January 13, 2018

A prefab home in Uruguay

I found an article in Dwell about a cool prefab house in the wilds of Uruguay.

It is designed by MAPA architects in Montevideo. Their website shares lots of great photos of the house and its construction. It's well worth a look!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

December's weather

It's only a partial report this month. My Netatmo mysteriously stopped reporting on December 15. The power and wi-fi were still on as I could see the webcams and the luftpump, but no weather reports, frustratingly.

The good news is that Olle and Annika stopped by yesterday and found that the power plug had somehow become loose! They plugged it back in and all is well again, so I will be able to share most all of January's weather observations.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Broadband is on its way!

This may not look too exciting, but it is to me. These are the contracts I just received from the Nämdö Fibre association.

My broadband internet dream is becoming real. The schedule is to install fibre on Aspö by the summer of 2019. All the funding is in place.

Our financial contribution to the work is 25,000 kronor. It's not cheap, but it is broadly in line with the costs I wrote about almost 6 years ago.

Although our current mobile internet setup is fine, it's still fairly slow and has a data cap I always seem to blow through.

Having fast, stable, and unlimited broadband will be a real treat. It won't be long now for live moose videos on demand!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

More wooden skyscrapers

Thanks to the people at, I found an interesting article about wooden skyscrapers, one of my favorite topics. The video above details a building recently completed in British Columbia.

Tall buildings made of laminated wood can be lighter, stronger, and more fire-resistant than steel. They're also much friendlier on the environment. A win all around!

There handsome building on the left is from a design proposed for a design competition in Stockholm, a 34 story mix-used tower made of tower made of the same wood as our little stuga.

Even taller ones have been proposed for London, and the home of the skyscraper, Chicago itself.

I'm sure we will see more and more buildings like these in the near future. Their advantages are too many to ignore!

Friday, December 8, 2017

Blocket Design

Marcia recently sent me a link to a dangerously addicting website. Blocket is essentially the Swedish version of eBay for online selling. The link she sent was for something even better, for "Blocket Design".

It's like regular Blocket, with people selling all sorts of stuff, but it focuses on designer goods. I've already seen all sorts of fantastic furnishings I'd love to have, but have absolutely no room for.

That won't stop me from looking, though. A bit of internet window shopping is a nice way to pass the time.