Have a lovely new year, everyone!

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Making Christmas

Our Christmas is not very traditional – but there are some traditions that we have developed in the last years; and some are still developing.

It starts early; sometime in October – November, with the choosing of an exactly perfect Christmas tree that is solemnly marked and left to its place.  Maybe it will still grow a bit…

Last Tuesday was the D-day

The intrepid Christmas tree seekers with the saw at the ready. As you can see there is some difference of opinion as to the direction to take.

Found! And a true first-grader’s smile.

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Then the preparation of the Christmas flower arrangements. For materials and inspiration we visited first a garden centre.

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Florists at work

The achievements. In the completely impartial judgement of the grandparents they beat any  shop-made ones.

We also got from them a homemade gingerbread centerpiece for the table – not a house but something much more appropriate:

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It has to be admitted that my Christmas cleaning is by and large on the lines advised in the local newspaper. To get the true smell of Christmas into the house without tiring yourself out scatter some cardamon onto an ovenproof dish and let it stay in warm oven for a time; infuse a woollen sock with some soft pine soap and throw it under the bed. Nevertheless, it’s nice to have fresh rag rugs at Christmas. It just needs 60cm of clean snow and a stiff, long-handled brush.  Unfortunately there is no photo of that; Pekka came to the idea of a photo only when he was well in the process – and nobody would believe the snow was clean to start with.

Now the Christmas Peace has been declared  and with all possible goodwill and sense of cooperation there is a brand-new flower on an amaryllis.

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Have a wonderful Christmas, everybody!

White Christmas

If you have planned to gather together a group and go carolling with “White Christmas” as a part of your repertoire, just count me out. There is plenty enough of the stuff without any wishful warbling.

Actually – as you can see – more is hanging above us like the sword of Damocles

And thank you for asking – we do have colours in our mobile phone cameras.

At the moment we have 50-60 cm snow; just like in the good old days that I haven’t missed in this respect (Do I miss anything? Oh yes, the big flat gingerbread bread that we could buy from a stand in the indoor market hall at this time). Most of the snow has fallen in two mightly blizzards, the rest more haphazardly.

Only 300 m more to the hopefully ploughed road (it wasn’t) – all it needs now is a bit of speed!

But like a true gentleman, Pekka had trod a trail from the house towards the car so I could trip gracefully (and carefully) on that.

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It wouldn’t do to stumble… I couldn’t resist these boots as they were called “Siberia”; very appropriately, I thought.

Inside the house it’s cosy…

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… and aromatic

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This year’s last Inferno chilli and Christmas amaryllis “Exotic Star”

We have a new Tuftie – a miserable half-grown scrap of a squirrel, very hungry and very tame.

Not really camera-shy

Scene from the vegetable patch after the first blizzard – do you count this as hopeful optimism, or simply stupidity?

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Getting close

Once again it’s the time of the year when you get the impression that the local fauna is looking at you with speculative eyes and assessing your value as a food provider; spring and summer are full of courting, breeding and feeding the family; now it’s time to look after Number One.

Mind you, I’m not enlivened by the well-known Little Red Riding Hood Syndrome (the whole thing has anyway always sounded so illogical: whyever go through the trouble of entering a stuffy house and eating a scrawny grandmother first when you could stay in the forest and concentrate on a plump Little Red Riding Hood?).  We are food providers, not food – the large carnivores are much too busy preparing for the winter to come here and chase us round the yard. I’m speaking of the others, the sly and resourceful ones…

The weather has got temporarily warmer and that seems to have increased the activity around us. The other day I saw in the nearest birch something that I first identified as a large parrot – at the second glance it proved to be a greyheaded woodpecker that quite clearly was not for the first time on the lookout for food next to the house.

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Tuftie the Squirrel appears every morning before sunrise (if it does rise these days…) at the livingroom windowsill for her breakfast.

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As you can see all the world was pretty wet  – and slippery – so she had to grab my hand with her front paws to ensure she could get the cashew nut from my fingers.

A rather pitiful sight

A couple of evenings ago Pekka came in from feeding the dogs and told that Trotter the Fox has learned to squeeze herself through the 15-cm mesh fence of the area where the dogs are let from their kennels to exercise – and where the fish for the dogs is kept… Apparently she has grown too impatient to wait for the fish that Pekka throws for her behind the kennels.

On the shore of our cottage lake there seems to be a brand-new construction project:

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If you don’t succeed the first time…

…just try try try again…

The beaver must have been impressed by the pontoon (on the left hand corner of the photo). And he/she has had admiring company, too.

Raccoon dog tracks nearby

And there are still swans – though they keep to the threshed fields.

Some two hundred adults on that field – and only about thirty this year’s cygnets.

 

Late harvest

Just Google for “late harvest” and I know what you’ll get: slim beautiful wine bottles, eulogies of high quality, high sweetness and high price… You will NOT get a desciption of Sunday morning feelings when you take a glance at the weather forecast for the next week and see it has unaccountably changed from midweek mild night frosts to midweek -10 – and peering out through the only slightly diminishing darkness you see it’s snowing steadily.

For a while you employ expressions your mother specifically forbid you to use; then you don your most waterproof outfit, can’t find any adequate gloves, grab a couple of buckets, would kick the cat but for the fact that you haven’t got one, and stomp out. The beauty of late harvest, indeed!

So it was today; fortunately, at some point – about halfway through the celeriac bed – the ludicrousness of it all began to dawn on us (definitely the only dawn of the day) and then it was a bit more fun.

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The first year ever when the Jerusalem artichokes didn’t even try to flower in October; a bit late now.

The celeriacs, then carrots. The giant white was forgotten in ground last year; it didn’t try to flower this year, either.

Snow forms a nice featureless background.

Next parsnips and leeks.

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Please – they are NOT “thin miserable rootlets”; we prefer to call them slimline parsnips.

Then a pause and hot glögg – thank you, Alko, for having launched it in time this year! After that, Pekka went to harvest the last potatoes and I started processing the celeriacs; first time we have grown them – if “grow” is the right word this year – and we don’t want to mistreat them.

Pekka returned with the potatoes – remarking it was the first and hopefully the last time he had to use a sledge to get newly lifted potatoes home.

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And then it was evening, still snowing and pitch-black.

 

 

Expected (sigh)

Last week Tuesday we woke up to bright sunshine and high but warm wind (thanks, Ophelia!). Just what we needed so we dashed to one of our best funnel chanterelle areas – we needed at least ten litres to take to Erika. Fortunately the site was up to and above  our expectations…

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So, on Wednesday morning, off we were, the car laden with chanterelles and samples of our meagre harvest (potatoes, carrots, parsnips, leeks, cabbages, kale, celeriacs, squashes – garlic we forgot) for Erika’s family  – and new, appropriately marine mascots for Alexandra and Eveliina.

Ami and Guru, an adventurous jellyfish couple

It being the autumn holiday week in schools the ferry to Sweden was chock-full but that didn’t matter – the weather was calm and good, the food excellent and for the girls there was plenty to see and to do.

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The autumn colours were at their best

On Thursday in Stockholm we took the girls to explore the Old Town while their parents did some essential shopping.

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Half of a statue with two extras – Alexandra seems happy enough in the company of the princess; Eveliina is a bit leery of either the dragon or St. George with his sword.

In the late afternoon it was farewell…

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On Friday the return drive home – 400 km – started in glorious sunshine, plunged into a pea soup thick fog and ended in the evening darkness with a swirling snowfall.

Home sweet home

For the first snow it is even late so we shouldn’t complain (but we do). Now we just need a pickaxe to get the root vegetables up.

 

Coloured autumn

This morning we were cleaning yesterday’s haul

30 litres of funnel chanterelles, a few chanterelles

when we noticed something strange: we could actually see the lake that is about 1 km downhill from us. No fog, no veil of rain. There was only one thing to do – we lifted the mushrooms to the open veranda (quite cold enough there) and jumped into the car to go and see the autumn.

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No sunshine but it didn’t matter – aspen provides it own.

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There are few trees more glorious than autumnal aspen – unless it is the springtime aspen with its coppery new leaves. – We were also looking for flame-orange, russet and burgundy rowantrees with their red berries but the rains and winds had somewhat subdued them.

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So we came home uplifted; it seemed to us that despite the grey sky there were colours, frills and furbelows everywhere:

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Kale Emerald Ice

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A garland-decorated funnel chanterelle – completely edible; the individual just happens to love finery.

Harvesting and processing of the last pointed cabbages was carried out in the same vein:

Fortunately there was a purple one, too

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Onion, leek, sweet pepper, chilli, garlic, lovage, mint…

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Nicely mauve cabbage casseroles on their way to the oven.

Even the dinner came in colours (the casseroles were still in the oven).

Chanterelles, sweet pepper, leek, celeriac, borlotto beans (about half of  this year’s total harvest), garlic, ginger syrup, chilli oil, salt. After stir-frying, add cream and cream cheese flavoured with cold-smoked reindeer.

And the dessert:

The size was not very impressive (about that of a largish, elongated ping pong ball) – but it was delicious!