Water

In Finland, we have a (usually ironic) comment that you speak of the issues that are in short supply for you. To illustrate that: at the end of the six-month dry season in Zambia our family had only two topics, namely 1) when will it rain? and, 2) what if it won’t?

Feeling a bit like that at the moment. Mind you, we have had one shower in June (less than two hours, gentle rainfall that hardly wetted the cabbage leaves), but all in all it has been pretty desertish here – +31 at daytime, +12 at night. Rather many vegetables/herbs haven’t bothered to germinate – what would the use have been?

We have done what we can (sorry – I didn’t intend to sound so pathetic), with some voluntary neighbourly help: Hannu from downhill has brought us two tractorloads of grass/hay for mulching

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And they have been no mean loads, either!

We water the vegetable patch and the greenhouses every morning as early as possible. Almost everything has now been mulched – just to keep the carried moisture in the ground.

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Brassicas

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Peas – notice Pekka’s new support system: willow stem uprights tied with willow bark strips to form a net

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Courgettes & squashes

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Tomatillos

Even the flowers (Ricinus, zinnias, cotton, okra) have been mulched. Only the greenhouses and the herbs stay mulchless.

After the chores have been carried out we go to see water. The nearby lake is of course an obvious destination with its flag irises

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and its evening clouds like griffins

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The second favourite site is a small brook where Beautiful demoiselles flit like black shadows above the shady water

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till a sunbeam turns them into jewels.

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After a vicarious revelry in/with water we turn back home to have dinner – cucumber, of course, with its 97% of water.

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Regardless of the water issue, grilled cucumber or gherkin with whipped horseradish topping is a true summertime luxury.

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All things considered, one has to admire our Number One opportunist – a smug Tuftie after a quick dip in its water bowl…

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“Every year” is a comfort

This year has been different. Undeniably, from the point of view of us all, it is so: the coronavirus, the galloping climate change, the uncertainty… And because it is so you more and more turn your mind to those things that (you want to trust) are there every year and that make you look forward to the next year and the year after that…

Just small things and yet markers of the continuity: the wood anemones towards the end of May – just when you have lost the hope of ever seeing them again

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The hares moving around at daytime because the grass is so new and so lusciously green, especially compared with the aspen bark they have been living on all winter

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The first swallowtail of the year – you look at the calendar and moan, “Where are they? Last year they came two days ago!” And then they come, three days late and a part of a wing missing – but they DO come!

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The old uninhabited house at the other end of the lake gets more desolate by the year: the paint is peeling, the planks formerly covered by that paint are turning grey – but the comfrey grows next to the wall every year, always beautiful

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and the now unused steps to the door are flowering, too.

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The June moon glows in the blue sky because the night sky is not black in June…

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In a way we, of course, try to emulate the every year aspect – every year we sow, plant, grow and harvest; maybe not (take that again: quite surely not) so well as our wild surroundings do – but hopefully not disastrously.

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Yet… We brought with us a couple of globeflowers when we moved here from Lapland. They have flowered every year since that – but it is possible they might not do so “every year forever” – they are flowers of cool climate and very likely will suffer from the climate change.

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And, admittedly, the kestrel’s look is highly suspicious of us and our intentions.  Quite understandably.

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If your wish is to complain…

… May never lets you down.

This year it looked like we might miss our chance: the snow vanished from the hillside and a brand-new Trotter trotted into sight

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Judged by the colouring it’s an offspring of the original Trotter and its mate, a cross-type fox

The least weasel (only a hand span long) came to show us its new summer coat,

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The kestrels were clearly in a celebratory mood (despite the magpie);

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the ruffs arrived, danced and departed (keeping strictly off-camera). Even the bramblings appeared without their customary flurry of sleet.

So we took the seedlings into the greenhouse.

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It worked. Yesterday this year’s first thrush had to wet its toes in the falling snow

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while the cuckoo was simply fed up with the whole idea of homecoming.

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“Feel free to cuckoo yourself in this weather!”

The wood anemones were dejected

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The seedlings travelled back…

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The evening was monochromatic and miserable

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and this morning more decorative but still depressing – do you wonder that our flag colours are blue and white?

bty

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And now for the uplifting finale – er, let me think a bit…

The nights are so short that if the badger visits us we can see it in colours

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The fyfe net works!

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Call it optimism

“Megalomania” might also be a fitting expression.

Anyway, I blame (comparative) isolation and social distancing for everything. You have far too much time to surf the net and realise what you really have wanted all your life. And all too often those things are in too user-friendly net shops.

As a result, we are now proud owners of a fyfe net, just a small one.

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I hasten to add that we are not intending to catch hares in it – it is meant mainly for the bream spawning time and will make our life a lot easier (after we have managed to get it in the lake); no nets twisted into ropes by the surging bream, the small fish can be released without injuring them and it will be too deep in the lake for the cygnets to get into it.

AND we are proud owners of a 10.4 m2 greenhouse Strelka – er, sort of… I’m sure it will raise itself in no time…

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It was (of course) perfectly reasonable, even necessary, to get it – we have such a lot of potted and unpotted seedlings and more will emerge (I hope) after I have the second sowing session next weekend.

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PLEASE! These are NOt the only ones!

The sowing includes essential greenhouse plants like cucumbers, gherkins,  and melons (and loofah, kiwano, cucamelon…). Now we shall have space for a few dwarf bean plants in the greenhouse and start the season early (or in the worst case have a season).

There is also the embodiment of a Mad Venture needing a sheltered space

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Upland cotton

Oh well, maybe it’s not only corona but simply the spring…

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Anyway, a spring

It can’t be just the coronavirus that makes this feel somehow a grudging spring – warmish days but a bitterly cold wind, starry nights with hard frost. The meagre snow is slow to melt, the birds are slow to arrive.

Nevertheless, we have started the preparations: two weeks ago, we sowed the tomatoes, aubergines, chillies and sweet peppers for pre-growing – they are now up and more or less galloping.

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The tomatoes are already developing their first true leaves

I have even sowed the year’s mad venture:

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No sign of it yet…

I’m really not planning to make my own t-shirts from their primal elements; I just want to see the flowers – and if there would be any seed pods the girls could use them in their flower arrangements.

Outside, the first snowdrops are about to open in the first snowless patch.

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The newly arrived blackbirds have started singing (tentatively) and fighting (decidedly)

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And our home and garden buzzards have returned from wherever they have spent the winter.

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Old meat from the bottom of the dogfood freezer will keep them going nicely till it gets warmer

The badger has woken and poses for the surveillance camera almost every night. We still don’t know whether we have one or several of them; their social distancing is rather perfect.

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There are large flocks of bean geese near or on the still ice-covered lakes

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The odd one out is a Canada goose

and while watching them yesterday we suddenly noticed we were being watched ourselves

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It’s not often you see moose in full daylight; they tend to prefer dusk.

So, despite everything, it’s maybe spring and it’s for sure Easter… Wishing you well!

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Slow goes it

I suppose it should be heartening to know that from yesterday to September the 22nd we are going to have longer days than anyone south of here to equator and a good stretch south of it.

Yes, one should be simply elated – and yet… It’s so very quiet everywhere; the migrating birds are late (though hopefully only tardy). We have made quite a few trips to the flatlands and seen only whooper swans.

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A watering-hole…

It’s understandable – during the last days the winds have been from the north and that doesn’t favour birds flying northwards. Even the swans seem to be waiting till the wind changes  direction before they carry on.

Actually, I belong to the age group that should avoid contact with other people, according to the Emergency Act given this week; Pekka is a couple of years short of the limit. As you surely notice, the order does not require me to stay in the house or even in the vicinity. There are no neighbours within a contaminating or even shouting distance, no shops or public transport nearer than 25 km. So by using our own car and not stopping to take in hitch-hikers (not that there would be any) we  are not in contact with people. Pekka does the shopping when necessary.

Although the migrating birds are notable by their absence there are of course the local ones

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Competing for food

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Drumming for spring

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Sunning even in the wind

The hibernating animals are beginning to wake up. I must admit I’d simply hate to meet a peevish bear that has woken too early because the water has dribbled into its den – but this morning’s visitors looked adorably cuddly!

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The first raccoon dogs this year

And the evenings are beautiful (but I miss the flute of the blackbirds).

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Come next new moon

This is the third consequtive day of sunshine – after our long everything-is-grey-so-why-bother stupor we have begun to sit up and take notice. And, actually, there are lots of things to notice…

After a month’s absence our new Tuftie has returned to the feeding place – and rather the worse for wear:

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The left ear split and a white scar running down its nose

The redpolls are ubiquitous

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And the new record of the surveillance camera  in one day (yesterday) is 170 photos of magpies, hooded crows and jays. Huoh.

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Tracks of squirrels, mountain hares, lesser weasels, hazel hens, fox and various voles & shrews are everywhere – except within the camera range. Huoh again.

On Tuesday we took the girls to a quick round trip. First to see a hillside Highland cattle – to look at and be looked at.

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At least we assume it’s looking at us…

Then to the garden centre with its grey parrots and the greenhouse cat

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On the way back, the stream was like it was in October…

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Last evening we admired the moon till it set – such a lovely sight!

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Illogically, it looks as if it were hanging between us and the birch

Maybe that’s a portent of something? That the summer will be good for these?

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Or only for these?

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Or if nothing else, at least of the fact that we can start sowing for pregrowing when the next new moon appears – be there clouds or not.

 

 

No-winter January

I feel like thronging the queue when remarking that the weather (pronounce: climate)  is simply not reliable these days. There was a time when you could have a look at the calendar and know what kind of weather you were going to have.  Not any more.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t like winter (I might have mentioned it once or twice before…). But I vastly prefer a winter to something that is neither here nor there and thus not any recognisable season.

A year ago, January – practically the whole January – was like this and you could be sure it was winter (whether you liked it or not).

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This year started promisingly enough:

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A clear frosty day, with lynx tracks circling our greenhouse and continuing uphill

A week later it was still a bit frosty but not too cold for the Grey-headed woodpecker to nestle in the snow while sampling the breakfast we provide.

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Now… All the weekend it has been raining (as opposed to snowing). We have Föhn again and shall have it for quite a while; strong SW wind and +grades.

Here on the hillside we still have snow but today we decided to go to the flatlands and have a look at the situation there.

The roads were slushy and slippery, the trees snowless,

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the stubble on the fields fully visible.

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The lakes are ice-covered but the ice is submerged in water.

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For us it is shocking to see green fields in January.

So, what do we particularly complain about? Not the abnormality per se – after all, we cannot any more say what is “normal”.  The consequences worry us a great deal. Since the last snowless winter there hasn’t been a single hedgehog hereabout – they apparently can’t survive the frosty hibernation period here without a proper snow cover. The number of swallowtails and scarce fritillaries has gone noticeably down; they both overwinter at their immature stages.

Well, we can’t get the hedgehogs back but we still hope we can have the lynx visiting us every now and then (our poultry-rearing neighbours might not agree with us about that) – and in our most optimistic moments we dream of having a live repetition of the surprise we had one morning last November:

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We did not really expect our surveillance camera to catch a wolverine breakfasting some 30 m from our house.

 

 

And then there was light

We have been waiting and waiting for light – just some indication that there still is a sun somewhere in the vicinity of the planet. Or even stars… As scant proof of that was forthcoming we simply decided the time had come to do something we never before even considered doing:

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Not to be just plain selfish we re-placed the bird feeder amid the lights and now we have the pleasure of seeing the birds crowd the branches.

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And we hung some hay on the branches for the mountain hares to nibble.

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The hay was more visible before the latest snowfall…

Otherwise, there are not too many birds; but the dippers have arrived! We went to the rapids to see them and met one who simply loved to be on camera.

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It flew to us, dug for itself a nice hole in the snow and proceeded to enjoy being the star of the photos – it was completely fearless

After a while it flew back to the rapids chirping in a very (self)satisfied way; and we went home, smiling.

Wanted: colours!

In mid-November it’s dark when you wake up and dark when you go to bed – in between it’s grey for a few hours. Even what happens outside is either monochromatic

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or so muted in colour you hardly realise it’s coloured…

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… though we are of course glad we seem to have now resident tree sparrows – never have had house sparrows here in the bush so any sparrow species is welcome.

To get some colour into our life we reminded the girls that it’s time to choose their Christmas tree; traditionally it’s chosen and marked and left to grow a further month (we all believe it will get taller, branchier and greener) before it’s finally taken home.

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They were colourful; their dinner (prepared by Pekka) was colourful

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Grilled chicken, pineapple and pumpkin; fried violet potatoes and chestnut;, cucumber salad, cranberry-pumpkin jam. The chipotle mustard is off camera

and vanished at top speed. All that was left for our dinner next day were a few violet potatoes and half a pineapple so we added to them sweet peppers, red pointed cabbage and red onion

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It’s a pity colours do get muted in the cooking process – or in preserving.

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On the other hand, were it not so I might spend too much time with the fridge door wide open.

The first Christmas amaryllis has opened its flowers

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Beautiful – but why, oh why couldn’t it be my usually despised bright red?

To stop myself from whining I decided to create something colourful – it will need some time to be finished (and a second one to be made); about all the grey days till the next Solstice.

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