Small steps towards spring

As far as spring goes this week has up to yesterday been a total failure – first a heavy blizzard and then an empty white landscape, highly depressing even for a citizen of the happiest country in the world (as if…!). We have been most days looking for migratory birds and seen nothing.

Of course there has been some advancement at the home front – more green appearing on the containers – but proud of them as I am even I cannot claim that they are at this stage impressive.

Celeriac – hard to believe it would grow to produce something of edible size

Although the weather yesterday was highly monochromatic (black and white and a lot of grey in between) we decided to drive to the flatlands round a largish lake – maybe there would be something to see. There definitely was no deluge of birds but what we saw we appreciated.

Jackdaws are not really migratory – and they are monochromatic, too (except for their blue eyes), but at least they are alive, curious and noisy…

A dash to the road on the way to the next farm

When we were kids whooper swans were almost extinct in Finland. Now there are plenty of them in the northern and central parts of the country – but still they are birds you notice with pleasure.

Waiting

Roadsides are the most likely places to see birds looking for seeds.

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The old saying is “A month from the first skylark to summer”. H’m.

On the way home there was a tall birch full of snowballs…

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The first time we have ever seen snowbuntings on a tree – we have thought they can be only earthbound or airborne. There were 94 of them and I think Pekka took photos of each single one.

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Looking towards spring

It’s the time when everybody seems to be telling how they know spring is here (or rather there). The first crocus, the first daffodil, little girls playing hopscotch among the puddles, the first butterfly (we call THAT high summer!). For us it’s easy: when the hooded crows arrive from the farmlands to our hillside.

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Looking everywhere for spring

As always, they are in time, we are in time and so are (mostly) the seedlings. The spring isn’t – but, after all, three out of four is quite good…

The tomatoes are growing their first proper leaves, the chillies and sweet peppers are just emerging

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and as for aubergines – when you think three plants would be enough (Pekka) or, at the most, six (I) you of course get 100% germination and 25 seedlings.

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No, you don’t need to think we are experimenting with genetically modified seeds. We visited our favourite garden centre to buy Easter flowers. When we had bought them the florist remarked that she had just potted all the sweet peppers they are likely to sell this year and there were plenty seedlings left over – would we do her the favour of taking some of them off her hands? We did and have now a dozen sturdy seedlings that are a month older than the rest. If we manage to keep them alive till they can be transplanted in the greenhouse we might get very early peppers this year.

The first migratory whooper swans have arrived; the snow buntings are very late and we haven’t seen them yet. But, all in all, we are like the crows – trying to look towards spring.

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Palm Sunday

A Palm Sunday again and the traditional visit from the friendly witches…

I wave a withe for a fresh and healthy year ahead; a withe for you, a treat for me!

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A broomstick would have been definitely too cold!

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May we come in?

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I wave a withe for a fresh and healthy year ahead

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A withe for you, a treat for me!

March moods

Let me present to you the symbol of the month: a March Hare as portrayed by a talented young artist called Alexandra.

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Being a very recent portrait – from the last week, the information stated – we deduct it’s a European hare, not a mountain one; surely the artist has wanted to stress the  effect of the climate change on the local fauna.

At the moment any colour is welcome as the outside world is stubbornly white. The snow around the house is above the windowsills, which does give you a new perspective on things.

Tuftie on equal level with us

Colour… The sock yarns in the supermarket have lovely new colourways. As I have made a decision not to buy new yarn before knitting at least the same amount from the existing stash I had to do something quickly and grabbed the bag of the leftovers.

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Who says the socks in a pair have to be identical? So dull, I think….

But yes, we have done something in the gardening line, too – someone might even say, too much…

Just 37 different tomato cultivars, 21 sweet pepper cultivars, the same amount of chilli ones and 5 aubergine varieties. Surely not too many?

And so we carry on – looking out and noticing hopefully every change in the weather…

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Bright spots

As I may have mentioned a couple – well, a few or maybe pretty many – times I’m not overfond  of winter. By and large an unnecessary part of the year, I feel – though admittedly white mountain hares look cute, especially if they are not munching our apple trees.

But I do bow to facts: winter is here, in full force and apparently for  quite a while yet. For the last week the days have been fairly clear, the temperatures at night -22 to -25, at daytime up to -12. The next week seems to be about similar – so no relief in sight. At least for me it’s even too cold for ice-fishing…

Nevertheless – at times there are literally bright spots in the present life: in the morning you look out and there is one – though not maybe feeling very bright itself

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A male grey-headed woodpecker all fluffed up against cold

When in the morning you decide to drive to the nearest shop to get milk for the morning coffee…

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And if you decide the nearest shop is not 25 but 45 km off – just so that on the way there you can cross the Black Stream Bridge and see whether you can see something – you might be in luck and see a white-tailed eagle on the ice, feeding on the small fish the fishermen have left there. A couple of days ago we saw two (sorry, no photo – they are shy animals).

Back home the sun has moved so that the lately woken amaryllis can welcome it.

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And then, of course, the evening with the setting sun casting its last rays:

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till, suddenly and for only a short moment, the thin clouds are all aflame

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And the long dark winter evenings? No trouble with them – there is plenty to look at! And, mind you, this is just a tiny selection of the tomatoes…

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Only three more weeks!

 

 

Dipper day

It seems that we have now a proper old-fashioned winter – let’s hope we’ll have a proper old-fashioned summer, too. It would be a nice change from the last three miserable snowless periods that the calendar has called summer.

Yesterday we woke up to a bright sunshine  (this is poetic licence – actually we woke up pretty long before the sun) and -17; the general feeling in the family was that something should be done to celebrate the rare occurrence of the sun (it was – according to our calculations – the third time this year). So – after feeding the very hungry Tuftie – we decided to have a dipper day, i.e. to go round the localities where there would be open water and we could possibly see dippers.

The sky was washed blue;

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the ice and snow glittered

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and it didn’t take long to find promising rapids.

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First there was nothing, then an otter had been frolicking near the water

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and then…

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They are such funny birds – their attitude to our frozen landscape seems to be like ours to the Canary Islands: they migrate here for the winter from Lapland and clearly feel they have here warmth, excellent swimming possibilities and tasty food – just a good holiday and then back home…

What’s there?

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Or there?

Diiive!

We saw four dippers along that river; altogether fewer birds than last year – hopefully it doesn’t amount to a trend. We drove quite a long way just to see the small rivers that might host birds. They were lovely but by and large dipperless; only one more bird.

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We did some sightseeing…

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… till the shadows lengthened and the sky turned deep blue…

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…and it was time to go home and watch the sunset.

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