Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A Peasant’s Life

2012-02-28 Ben - outdoor lunch

The chills of the month are fast being forgotten as we turn to wearing shorts and sandals. Ben some time lying around on the grass reacquainting himself with the baby chicks he met last time, all much bigger and nearly ready for the pot.

The rest of the day was spent even less strenuously on the terrace with fig bread, comté cheese and other simple pleasures.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Luvvies no stranger

Ben Dawson, our popular visitor from last November reprised his tour of the south-west with another three-night stopover to escape London, and as he puts it “drink wine, play scrabble and ride a tractor”.Ben & Mike

Last time Ben was rehearsing for a tour of Howard Blake’s The Snowman ballet in Finland. This time he’s preparing the piano accompaniment for some Rachmaninov songs. He suggested I try a few of these (playing not singing!) and I find some passages remind me of much more recent pieces and can’t help but warble “And love is a stranger / who’ll beckon you on” – which tickles Ben’s imagination as he discovers that this couplet can be sung to all of the Rachmaninov pieces he’s brought with him.

Time is a funny thing – there’s only a half century between Rachmaninov publishing these pieces and Nancy Sinatra singing You Only Live Twice for the Bond film of that name in 1967, and it’s nearly as long ago for that now. Ten years later, Eric Carmen was using other Rachmaninov melodies to his profit.
It’s a miracle I was able to play anything as my fingers have not had a good month betwixt chilblains and various slashes and gashes during yardwork.

After that Ben was running through some party trick of playing Away in a Manger in the style of various composers such as Prokofiev. I asked him to play Rhapsody in Blue in the style of Arvo Pärt, which is definitely for connoisseurs of the obscure.
Munson and dish-cleaning for three

Munson again lucked out with extra dishes for the evening, not two but three dinner plates, and a couple of baking dishes.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Chook wash


Cleaning the interior of the fur-lined Munsonmobile is not something that is done regularly or with great enthusiasm. When we’re not doing a road-trip, it only gets used for weekly shopping trips or more irregular errands. However as spring approaches, the accumulation of hair and farm dirt is becoming more visible and the inevitable need has become immediate – hastened on by the imminent arrival of two guests over the next two weeks.

What I’ve never had the benefit of before, are swarms of free-range chickens to clean off the floor-mats. You can also see Tosca mooching around the back as she is now the chickens’ primary competitor for crumbs or even dirty dishwater cast from the kitchen window. I would have been quite happy for the birds to jump in and clean where the vacuum cleaner’s crevice attachment will not reach, but they didn’t take the opportunity.

IMG_0504 IMG_3014

Over the last week Munson has been out playing with Legend for long stretches, and I’ve been very heartened that he’s paid little attention to the chickens grazing only a short distance away. A year of acclimatization to them running around in view of the terrace has really paid off. I’ve been trying to get some good photos of him with the chooks for about a week now, but he avoids them more often than not, looking away unless they’re being particularly squawksome.

He will occasionally give chase if Legend runs after them or if he sees some of the inter-galline battles between hens or cockerels, and then it’s for play rather than prey.  For the most part he’s much more interested in playing with Legend or the four kittens, although if one of the hens wanders up to him he will as the kids say, try to “sniff its butt”. When he does set off it’s now easy to recall him by name or with a stern no!

The other big factor in his development is simply that he’s growing up – he’ll be four years old in April – and he’s a much more mature fellow than he was when we set out from Australia in 2010. His new domestic skills are underlined by his neighbourly visits to the Munsoneers’ all-weather play house, although he may a little over-optimistic about the quality of the food coming from its kitchen.

Munsoneers cubby house (1)  Munsoneers cubby house (2)

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pers and Perssuasion

My last family-history update -  Svens and Svensibility – summarised my findings from the latter part of the 19th century into the first part of the 20th. After that burst of activity, I’m allowing my research efforts to go on a hiatus until a good crop of new clues surfaces.

Malmö församling bokEven when I posted that report a week ago, I withheld a big chunk of news: that I had the names of two further generations of Sven’s brother Johan Alfred PERSSON’s family taking me up to the present day. To be more precise: I have contact details for about fifteen living cousins of my father’s and my generation scattered through southern Sweden. The joy (and peril) of Facebook is that I was able to look up a few of these names and instantly put a face to  them – and in case there was any ambiguity, the fact that most of them had their siblings, parents and close cousins as Facebook friends clinched the identification.

Not wanting to leap in on these folks in a crazy stalkerish way, I’ve sent one message via Facebook, and one via email to a couple of different people, introducing myself and pointing back to this blog to indicate my bona fides. I haven’t heard back from either – possibly because I’ve disappeared into their respective spåm folders. Maybe they’re not interested in my offers of discount libido stimulants or to broker funds between their accounts and some Nigerian diplomats in another part of the family. We’ll wait and see what develops there.

Further to that, my Swedish research elves have helped tease out some more information on the family of Sven’s elder half-brother Per NILSSON. His wife Johanna, who had borne him three sons and was widowed after 4 years of marriage, was last seen in 1939 – having not remarried in the intervening sixty years, alternating time between her two elder sons and their families.

Picking up the stories of her sons:

- Johann Edvard NILSSON (1875-1931 ) = Anna Gustafva PETERSSON (1877-1909) was a carpenter who moved to Stockholm in 1901. He married Anna in 1908 and she gave him one daughter Aina Kristina and died 8 months later. After the First World War, father and daughter moved to Arboga, west of Stockholm. Johann pre-deceased his mother Johanna who had joined them ~1919.

- Axel Anton NILSSON (1877- ) = Berta Elina PETERSSON (1873 - )
Axel worked on the railways like his father, with his job being described as stationskarl. He married Berta of Listerby in 1899 between the births of their first two children. Since my last post, a new son arrived, and the family moved around within Malmö – or it may be fair to say that the parishes/districts of Malmö shifted and renamed around them. Axel was still working in one capacity or another for the railways when I left him in the 1930s.

  • Johan Albin NILSSON (1898- ) (no new information)
  • Maria NILSSON (1899- ) (no new information)
  • Svea Ingeborg NILSSON (1901- ): in 1932 she was a telephonist in Malmö
  • Ture Hjalmar NILSSON (1906- ): customs agent

NILSSON.Thure Hjalmar 1906-09-12 birth in Malmö Caroli

- Per Olof Hjalmar NILSSON (1879- ) was living with his mother at the time of the 1900 census, and in May of that year changed his surname to Ståhle. He moved to the same area of Stockholm as his eldest brother, and changed from being a träarbetare (woodworker) to being an electrician. In 1911, he married Amalia Melanie BEEZ (1889-1912) in Mühlhausen, Thüringen Germany and brought her to live in Stockholm where she died 5 months later. In 1913, he returned to Mühlhausen and married Maria Hedvig BEEZ (sister/cousin? of his first wife), brought her back to Stockholm briefly before they both moved on to Berlin. A 1917 letter shows them living at Emdener Straße 13, Berlin and applying to retain Swedish citizenship.

These generations of the family definitely had a rough time with early deaths leaving young children, and no remarriage for the partner. Even my ancestor Sven died of cancer at the age of 43, leaving 5 children and a widow who survived him by 35 years.

Einstein, Albert Prof Dr. | Berlin 1930I checked the German records in case there was anything more about Per Nilsson Ståhle and his wife. I had my hopes falsely raised by the Ancestry software reporting his name in several volumes of German phonebooks up to the 1940s. After fruitless scanning of some of the pages I realised that it had assembled a number of badly-OCR’d fragments of text to arrive at these “matches”. To compensate for this waste of time, I took the opportunity to do some German pre-war phone-book tourism, which I can tell you is going to be das nächste große Ding.

As a footnote, I must add the welcome news that South Australian hatch, match and dispatch indexes are now available online.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Dickens of a time

snow nose 2012

I visited my friendly doctor this morning to get an official diagnosis of my most recent digital complaint – what I’ve variously construed as yarn allergy and gout. His analysis was engelures or as readers of Charles Dickens would have it: chilblains. With this recent cold snap, he said there’s been a lot of it about. I was rather relieved that it wasn’t a dietary issue and that lamb shoulder roasts and cauliflower soup weren’t going to be excised from the menu.

Household Words by Charles Dickens Vol XXVIII

The cold has also made Munson’s snow nose more pronounced but there’s nothing to worry about there unless Santa commandeers him for sleigh-pulling duties.

Soft-wear release

Gustav as knitting model done!

Beginning to end, this sweater took four weeks, although if I had all the right needles, and less terse instructions in the design, I may have polished it off in two. The pattern wasn’t difficult, but it definitely needed de-bugging. I’m not the first person to contact the designer about problems, but even after a year the pattern hasn’t been corrected or otherwise updated. Oh the woes of the softwear industry!

competing for attentionI did learn three new techniques in the course of this project: three-needle bind-offs, short-row shaping, and mattress stitch seaming. I got a bit carried away with the idea of using the three-needle bind-off as a seaming method and wasted a couple of evenings on the shoulders with this method and then unpicking it all when I realised that it was too rigid for these segments. It looked beautiful underneath, but the shoulders became very creased.


Thank you to Tina at Knitwhits/Freia’s Fibers for help with yarn, and Cristi on Ravelry for helping me sort out how to interpret the design instructions (or lack thereof) for the shawl collar.

Country cooking

country cooking

One big chicken casserole from me, and a chocolate cake from Gustav.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Sticking to my knitting

P1080311The circular needles required to finish the pullover arrived a few days ago, somewhat delayed by erratic post while the roads were iced over. Once I’d deployed them to pick up all the stitches around the collar, I found that the pattern was again lacking in detail. I put the needles down and went hunting online for people who had completed that pattern to solicit advice on how to read between the lines as printed.

I finally got back to work on Monday and finished off all the knitting yesterday. Today I began doing the seams, which is the most tedious part of the project. When I laid the pieces out on the floor to pin the sleeves in place, Munson came over to investigate and proved to be fairly helpful at holding the curling edges down – until he realised he liked the smell of it, and decided he just wanted to roll in it.

P1080297  P1080300

The finished product will come too late to defend me against the recent cold snap – even with a last little drop of snow on Tuesday, in one day the temperature lifted enough to make our previous maximum temperature of –1C the new minimum. Tonight we’re headed for a balmy 3C – I can hear the ice cracking on the pond already!

Three phases of cat reactions to dogs : surprise - resignation - ear-cleaning

Svens and Svensibility

Householdex 1884 to 1887 - Block 19 Southern Suburbs

Mapping my Swedish ancestry has proceeded apace since the Perssons of Interest  update. While I’ve filled in a few small details of triply great grandfather Sven Persson’s ancestry back to the 1740s, I’ve concentrated mostly on working forward from his siblings, the surviving brothers Nils, Johan Alfred and Ola, and half-brother Per Nilsson.

Thus below we have the stories of the descendants of Nils PERSSON (1812-1886) and Elna PÅLSDOTTER (1827-1902), my great-great-great-grandparents.

As of this month I can name 31 out of 32 of this generation of ancestors – with some irony, it is only my direct male ancestor WILLIAMS who is lost to time. Only 46/64 of the prior generation is known.

NILSSON.Per   ANDERSSON.JC MARRIAGE 1875 Malmö-Caroli-EI-6-1873-1876-Bild-125-sid-342
Per NILSSON (1853-1879) = Johanna Christina ANDERSSON (1854- )

Railway worker jernvägsarb Per was married to Johanna Christina for 4 years before dying and leaving his young widow with three sons. I lost track of her after 1900, but she had not appeared to remarry in that time.

- Johann Edvard NILSSON (1875-  ) was a carpenter who moved to Stockholm in 1901. I traced him through Stockholm’s archives until 1908 when he was living in Engelbrekts parish, still unmarried.

- Axel Anton NILSSON (1877- ) = Berta Elina PETERSSON (1873 - )
Axel worked on the railways like his father, with his job being described as stationskarl. He married Berta of Listerby in 1899 between the births of their first two children.Monbijou 1899-1906 NILSSON.Axel

  • Johan Albin NILSSON (1898- )
  • Maria NILSSON (1899- )
  • Svea Ingeborg NILSSON (1901- )

There may be further children, but I lost track of the entire family after the 1900 census when they were living in the Malmö parish of St.Paul, Monbijou.

- Per Olof Hjalmar NILSSON (1879- ) was living with his mother at the time of the 1900 census, and in May of that year changed his surname to Ståhle.

1857 Sven PERSSON birthSven PERSSON (1857-1900) – went away to sea and launched an impoverished Australian dynasty of fish-and-chip merchants, artists, golfers and dog-fanciers.

Ola PERSSON to America 1883Ola PERSSON (1859 – ), a sailor (sjöman) like Sven, emigrated to the USA in August 1883. The US records of various men with that or similar names do not provide details of the date/place of birth beyond 1859/SWEDISH. With so many Ola Perssons born that year hopping it across the Atlantic, it would be grossly optimistic to make assumptions about which, if any of them is the right one. It would be good to know if there is an American branch of the family as none of the other family members known to have emigrated there (see below) produced offspring.

To get an idea of how many Ola Perssons I have to wade through see this FamilySearch listing.  Salt that list with the possible deviations to Ole/Olof/Olaf + Per/Pehr/Pear/Peir/Pher - sson/son/sen/ssen, and I’ve got Olas stretched from California to Massachusetts – and he may even have jumped to Canada. 

1864-06-13 Birth Johan Alfred Svens brother
Johan Alfred PERSSON (1864-1926) = Bertha Augusta ANDERSON (1869- )
The only one of Sven’s full brothers to stay in Sweden. In 1893 his occupation was kakelugnsmakare or stove-maker. He married fellow Malmö-born Bertha in 1898, a year after the birth of the first of their six children.

- Johan Albert PERSSON (1887-1972) = Anna Karolina ANDERSSON (1892-)
Appeared to have lived his entire life in Malmö, divorced in 1954 with two children.

  • Göta Dagny PERSSON (1917-2003)
  • Sven Albert Pramholt PERSSON (1920-1986)

- Bertha PERSSON (1889-1893)

- Karin Emilia PERSSON (1893-1977)  had one son, the father unknown

  • Alex Torston PERSSON (1913-1992)

- Bernhard Alfred PERSSON (1895-1980) was a crane driver

- Harald Reinhold Alexander PERSSON (1898- )

- William Waldemar PERSSON (1901-1985)

Nils PERSSON (1866-1933) = Justina Fredrika SKÄRMAN (1869-1931)
This pair lead me on a pretty dance as they moved to and fro between Sweden and Norway, and therefore completely different sets of records. They had 7 children born variously in Oslo (or Kristiania as it was still known at the time), and Sweden (Malmö and Lund). Only the four Oslo-born children survived childhood. I lost track of them after 1908 but they ended up back in Göteborg (Gothenburg) Sweden.

- Svea Elna Amalia PERSSON (1891-1954) = William John ODEN (1891-1958)

‘Ella’ was a chokoladearbæiderske (worked in a chocolate factory) and emigrated to the US when she was about 19. It wasn’t straight-forward to trace her, as her surname morphed from Persson to Pehrson to Pearsen. Her name Elna - from her grandmother Elna Pehrsdotter, as with her Australian cousin Annie Eleanor Pearson – softened to Ella. The details on her wedding certificate below seem like she dictated her mother’s name Justina Skärman so that it came out as a near phonetically rendered Christina Sherman.

Ellis Island manifest for ship Kristianiafjordkristianiafjord (boat Svea travelled on in 1913)

She married Swedish-born molder William in 1916 and they lived around Cleveland Ohio, producing no children. I hope she at least continued to make chocolate over the next 38 years. They are buried together in Lake View Cemetery.

CuyahogaCountyOhioMarriageRecordsandIndexes18101_4278838191930 US Federal Census: William + Ella Oden

- Nils Uno Wilhelm PERSSON (1904-1977) emigrated to the US, and applied for citizenship several times but this was not granted until after he had served 6 years in the US Navy 1942-48, IIRC spending some time in the Philippines. At some point he qualified as a physician and lived not far from his sister in the Cleveland area. He never married. In his case Nils became Nels.

- Odd Sixten PERSSON (1906- ). As gratifying as it has been to find an Odd Persson in my family, I have not been able to find any subsequent trace of him in Sweden, Norway or the US.

- Alfred Frederick PERSSON (1908-1960) born and died in Norway. I infer he had a family from some posts by a granddaughter(?) on a Swedish forum.

As ever, a special tip of the hat to Ylva, Annica and fellow researchers who helped piece this together.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

My tiny pond is frozen

Gustav on ice  Michael sur la glace

The pond ice was able to withstand about ten seconds of Gustav’s moon-walking before a crackling sound sent him scrambling back to shore.  Munson is sensibly more cautious about proceeding onto the pond surface.

Munson sur la glace

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Heat sink

weatherspark's week
heat sink: taking the plungeI’ve been in colder climates, but not as cold for so long as this chilly winter rolls on. The thermometer edges about 0C on occasion, but is not predicted to start retracing normal weather patterns for a few more days.

One of the more popular chores around the house this week has been dish-washing. The chance to plunge your hands into warm water for ten minutes is irresistible. The urge to stand in front of the oven has similarly driven an up-tick in pizza consumption, and baking. I’ve produced several loaves each of banana and zucchini bread – half of one of the latter mysteriously disappearing from the bench when Munson was guarding the kitchen.

Parts of the house become off-limits for a lot of the day. Honey and printer ink become vessel-bound solids, and the piano has retuned itself to the Kelvin scale, which is rather disconcerting during the moments when my fingers feel flexible enough to play. Thankfully the espresso machine has been humming along at optimum pressure.

My desktop weather widget is very cheery, footnoting the –9C with “feels like –16”. And then there’s that promise of more snow-showers on Tuesday, just in time to renew the snow-ice remaining outside the door.  Each day I have a small chore of chipping away the mosaic of Munson’s yellow and brown snow off the terrace. I stood on the pond ice a few days ago, hands within reach of a sturdy tree branch in case it didn’t hold.
weather widget steamy
Gustav and I ventured off the farm yesterday for the first time in about 10 days, Munson happy as always to be out in the car.

I wasn’t confident that the car would start for about a week of below -5, and after giving up a morning trip to Auch, the afternoon saw enough of a rise, for me to start it, reverse it into the sun and let it idle for fifteen minutes or so. Once we cleared the last patch of ice on the driveway, the roads were quite clear. With our grocery supplies renewed, I also collected some new base layer clothing for an evening of eXtreme movie watching in front of the fire.
sofa dogs weather widget by night

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Raft of the Malamute

 IMG_2965  IMG_2962

aka The Wreck of the Hairs-pussus*

There are quite a few old pallets around the farm which the Munsoneers use for cubby-house components, or more frequently, for dancing stages. I often view performances on this little stage from my kitchen window. Last week I observed Minty twirling and bouncing, crying out “I’m shy! I’m SHYYYY!”

(*With apologies to Géricault and  Longfellow.)


Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Sparkling Birthday

Eight again!My birthday dinner plans were put on hold this evening when Jean announced a big beef stew was in the works. The after-sparkles were not pre-announced.

I’ve had a gorgeous day inside and out – the morning’s ice-room grey going to afternoon blue and then a mauve twilight lit by the full moon, the Pyrenees decorating the horizon.

Thank you to for all the warm wishes and thoughtful gifts. I must call out Lucy’s special effort with her handmade garden of plasticine flowers, with quite detailed accompanying meal of plasticine fruits, gelato, hotdog and hamburger.

..and now back to reading one of Gustav’s gifts: The Etymologicon .

twilight full moon

Play session number three for the day saw Munson and Legend no less engaged in the battle for toys and sticks.

Munson & Legend twilight play

Snowfight at the K9 Corral


Only a faint whisper of snow fell overnight – it’s the temperatures that have continued to fall and hold off the melting. The sun sits behind a translucent panel of high grey cloud while the trio of dogs frolic without a thought of any of this.

P1080182   P1080184Legend of the snows

When I moved to Seattle in the 90s, I found a street sign for nearby N 50th Street in my basement. It’s seeing snow for the first time in many a year. If it sat on the other side of my house it would see the frozen surface of our pond – there’s not enough to support a human, but it has resisted the barrage of stones that Otto has used to test it.


My tiny pond is frozen

Around the middle of the afternoon, the clouds slid away leaving us with brilliant sun across a great marzipanorama of wedding cake whiteness. Subtract 30 degrees and you have almost the same setting as my birthday dogsled ride five years ago.

Otto was out to rebuild the snowman that Legend had eaten, and took our re-appearance  as an invitation to hunt me down with a fist full of snowball …

Snowfight animated gifMunson snowed Munson, Griff & Gustav snow cockerelCandyshop, Munson, Greycute & Legend Munson & GriffP1080206  P1080200

The cats seem to be just as impervious to the snow as the dogs, and given the pawprints across the pond, not averse to ice.

tennis court  paws across the pond  logpile