We drove up to Dalkarby Farm: it was once the biggest farm in Finland. it is now abandoned and few of the original buildings remain. The Finnish Forestry Commission has taken over the land and done something weird
These are pine trees. The tops have been cut off, probably more than once causing branches to form a sort of umbrella in a storm shape. According to my Other Half, this is done to encourage the production of pine cone which provide seeds that are harvested and used to grow saplings,
Finally, we have leaves on the birch trees. The cold, damp and windy weather seems to have prolonged the suspense. Most years they all leaf spontaneously within a couple of days at the beginning of the month. Not so this year: we have had bitter north winds, torrential rain and nighttime temperatures close to zero throughout May.
Slow Food Helsinki came to Rosendal today to forage for spring plants in the forest and on the fields. It was a bright sunny morning but there was a bitter westerly wind that didn't let up all day. We found wood sorrel (Oxalis acetosella), nettles, ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria), dandelions, rosebay willowherb (Chamerion augustifolium) AND... some of these:
These are false morels (Gyromitra esculenta). They are a delicacy in Finland which is a bit odd since they are deadly poisonous and their sale is banned in many European countries. I have never seen any here before but it has been exceptionally wet in recent days and Peter has churned up the track with the tractor wheels which may have encouraged their growth.
In order to eat them safely they can either be dried or repeatedly boiled in fresh water. Either way, the preparation is a lengthy process.
Today we collected over three litres of birch sap in just a few hours from two taps that we fitted this morning. To be honest, it just tasted of slightly sweet water, but it is very refreshing.
We drilled about 15 cm into the tree at an angle of approx 30 degrees. The pipe is pushed about 2-3 cm into the hole and the sap starts flowing immediately but slows down to about four drops per second after a while. We taped the bottles to the tree to prevent them falling over when full. It probably took about 4-5 hours to fill each bottle. We left the tubes in situ but plugged them. I'll collect some more later in the week.
The sap keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge. Apparently it takes around 90-120 litres of sap to make one litre of syrup (whereas maple syrup only needs 30:1).
We took a walk through the forest along the boundary which has recently been marked by the surveyors who are dealing with the estate of a recently deceased neighbour. They use red paint, sticks, stones, tape etc to indicate the boundary. We followed the marks and using Here/GPS on the Lumia phones and were able to check exactly where we were. We even found some old barbed wire which was probably used when the old farm keep cattle. We keep finding rolls of barbed wire in the forest which is a real pain as it is dangerous stuff, and well hidden in the undergrowth.
We also found an old car, almost completely rusted to nothing apart from the radiator and a headlamp.
There were a lot of felled trees from winter storms but in areas that are difficult to access. Not sure what we will do with those.
The red birch has survived a battering by the winds coming up the Pohjan bay from the Baltic thanks to our efforts to stake it firmly down and wrap it up. There are plenty of leaf buds but we don't expect anything remotely photogenic until the beginning of May.
In 2004 we planted Black Alder alnus glutinosa in the back field in a swampy area where little else could grow. Only about one quarter of the 2800 saplings survived but they are doing really well now. The trees are a "pioneer" species meaning that they are often used to re-forest open marshy areas such as this one. The bees are attracted to the catkins - one of their first food sources in the spring.
Juniper juniperus communis grows in southern Finland and we have many of them in our forest. They grow very slowly and don't survive hot, dry summers very well. The wood has a strong aroma and is used for making decorative objects and various handicrafts. The berries are used in cooking.
Today we found three juniper trees in need of some TLC. One of them was too damaged to be saved so we felled it and are storing it while it dries out. We might be able to save the other two by staking them upright again.
Here a pine has fallen on top of a juniper tree which is still alive but seriously flattened. We need to get the chain saw out to remove the pine tree and see if we can save the juniper.
This one doesn't look very special but it could be well over 40 years old. We scraped off the moss and it's hanging in the roof of the barn to dry. It was dead and would have evetually rotted if we had left it in situ.
This one was probably flattened by the forestry workers who cleared the forest two years ago. We propped it up with another branch and we will secure it with a stake and some rope. The roots seemed to be firmly in place.
While we were out counting trees we bumped into a neighbour who was out counting elk. Or, rather, he was counting tracks and elk poop. The count takes place on the same day every year nationwide. Usually there would be a thick layer of snow on the ground which makes poop location reasonably easy. But this year there is no snow so finding the tracks and the spores is a bit harder. We found lots though, tons of the stuff in fact...
Over in the Rosendal forest we planted new pine saplings a couple of years ago. Despite the lack of snow and the generous availability of food in the forest, the elk have not resisted nibbling them...
This is a complete mystery though. I have no idea what could have eaten through the base of this tree. It was on the edge of a lake (the one that feeds into Ovanträsk) and the animal (bird?) had gnawed at the tree from both sides... I am not aware of any beavers in this part of Finland but it would be exciting to think they had moved in close by. This looks quite recent. I saw one other tree in the same area with similar marks.
Note: I've asked around and the general consensus is that this is the work of a Black Woodpecker foraging for ants. This tree would probably have a rotten, hollow core where the ants are nesting.
We took a walk in the forest this morning - in the pouring rain. I don't remember ever walking in the rain in February in Finland. Very strange. In some places the forest is so green you find yourself bending down to look for mushrooms! But there are none. Not at this time of the year! In other places the snow comes past your knees and there are tracks clearly visible: raccoon dogs, rabbits, deer. An elk crossed the path in front of us just as we were nearing the back field. He wasn't in a hurry.
Meantime, on the back field...