It's still windy and at times the chill factor makes working outside not so fun.
This weekend we have been weeding in the polytunnel and planted out the Uchiki Kuri (potimarron squash) and the Autumn Crown butternuts which we started indoors. We installed the frame for the cucumbers and have planted some "Shirley" tomatoes in growbags in the polytunnel. Next weekend I will plant out the aubergines, the peppers and the cucumbers.
Peter planted the Annabella potatoes and I planted the leeks which we got from the neighbour. Both are going in the vegetable garden extension.
The broad beans have germinated nicely and are off to a good start. The asparagus are still cropping nicely too.
No sign of the runner beans, french beans, carrots, beetroot or parsnips for the time being but the rucola germinated quickly and I've covered it with fine netting as the tiny leaves were already being nibbled.
The bees have worked hard on the gooseberries so I can probably cover those soon to protect them from the nibblers (deer - Peter saw a roe deer strolling through the clover field next to the polytunnel).
We went up to Rosendal to check the new watering system in the Saskatoon orchard. Not only are the new pipes working perfectly, but the bees have found a new place to drink. There were bees like this one, sipping water, along the whole length of the pipe! Tom says this is a beautiful example of a symbiotic relationship between technology and nature. I guess he's right.
I'm starting off some courgettes indoors in small pots. Also sowing some French beans and basil in pots in the polytunnel.
We put in a solid day's graft today. Started after the rain stopped, around 10am and worked right through until about 8pm. We managed to get a huge amount of work done, especially planting. No frosts forecast this week (no rain either) but the forecasts have been rubbish recently, so we have pretty much given up relying on them. It was supposed to be sunny on Saturday but we had cold winds, rain, hail the size of peas and thick cloud.
Peter installed a drip watering system in the saskatoon garden (orchard?). These are cheap and cheerful tubes made from recycled tyres. They are porous so the water seeps through along the length of the tube. And it works! We had to relocate one of the big water containers but we will figure out that arrangement at a later date. Haven't weeded around the sakatoons yet though!
In the vegetable garden we made some more raised beds (out with the mint and the French sorrel) and planted two sorts of carrots (Nantaise 2 and Rote Reisen 2) and two sorts of beetroot and two varieties of parsnip (Gladiator and White Gem). The carrots are under plastic (those cheap and cheerful tunnel thingies with holes in from Lidl, we took the remaining stock from our local branch).
I also planted some French beans (Fin de Bagnols), a few runner beans and some parsley and rocket. And I planted out the globe artichokes that I had wintered in the root cellar (they don't look too happy at the moment). We weeded the paths and around the blueberries - in fact I must've spent several hours weeding today. I also weeded inside the polytunnel. The pumpkins and squash have germinated at long last. They were smothered in weeds but now they look fine. Everything needed watering which takes ages as we haven't hooked up the pump yet (because it is broken and we will probably have to buy a new one).
Peter managed to get the lawnmower working (oil change etc) and so he cut the grass around the house in Rosendal and around all the fruit bushes in Oventräsk. The fruit bushes (blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries) are covered in flowers. I think we are in for a brilliant crop providing the wind stops for long enough to let the bees do their stuff.
We also earthed up the Timo early potatoes. The ground is still quite cold so although they are covered in fleece, I'm not convinced we will have a bumper crop in time for Juhannus.
Pulled some more rhubarb but I think this will be for giving away as it seems to give me mouth ulcers (just like mandarines and oranges). Argh!
And the big fields are now planted, R is growing barley up at Rosendal. He had the whole family out there this weekend getting the fields ploughed and scattered, as it were. Hard work when the ground is so heavy.
They smell wonderful. And, there are lots more popping through so we'll be eating them for a while. I'm not complaining. Will probably steam them slightly while cooking the rice and then stir them into the risotto. I don't have any white wine here so I am going to use sparkling apple juice (just a dash). And I will also stir in a few wood sorrel leaves which I think will add a nice citrus tang.
Asparagus risotto is now on the menu. The spears look really good this year, thicker than previous years. It might be all the rain, or maybe they liked the mulch (straw) we threw on in the autumn. I have so far resisted temptation to harvest them as all the books say the plants need to be left to develop for at least three years after planting. But the three years are up, so there is no stopping me now!
I love showing the asparagus bed to visitors as most people have never seem them growing before and are surprised to see how the spears seem to pop up randomly from the ground!
And after we've finished harvesting them, we let the fronds grow - they are very pretty and look wonderful in a bouquet or in a vase with roses, or anything else that is vibrantly colourful.
It has been so cold and windy we have decided to install the full-length doors on the polytunnel. I was worried that the winter squash seeds might have rotted before germination so dug a few up but they were fine. Just not showing any signs of germinating. We need to increase the temperature in the tunnel (we have no heating in there - we rely totally on Nordic sunshine!) It has been getting up into the 30s inside the tunnel during the day but at nighttime the temperatures go right down to almost zero.
The problem is, the temperature can get way too hot when the doors are closed. That is not a problem before the seeds germinate, but once they are through, they are fragile and need protection from the heat. And lots of water.
The weeds seem to be doing fine. Time to unroll the weed barrier.
Tom is here for the weekend so we have the Incredible Hulk we needed to install a fence around the saskatoons. It's a huge job but we had all the materials: fencing, posts and the staples and the gates mostly acquired secondhand from various sources (mostly online). Now that everything is in place, I am tempted to move a few wooden boxes in there and grow some lettuce and radishes too! The jury is still out on whether the fence will keep the rabbits out. I think not. But if we can keep the deer and the elk out, then maybe we'll get some berries this year.
When we had finally finished erecting the fence, we were able to remove the plastic tubes from the saskatoon plants and discovered that many of the bushes were flowering. Fantastic! Brilliant! The stems looks really strong - they have had to fight back from the devouring forces of the local fauna for several years. Now, at last, they can thrive without the plastic tubes.
So why are we growing saskatoon berries? Well, they are suited to Nordic conditions and they are an excellent source of vitamins and anti-oxidants. They may not be native to Finland (neither are potatoes), but they do well here and they taste so good. I think the flavour is similar to cherry. They are also easy to grow, low maintenance (if you don't count installing the fence) and, as far as we know, are disease resistant and very hardy.
It is still a bit too cold and damp to put in parsnips and carrots etc but I did sow some Early Purple Sprouting broccoli in a seed bed and another row of broad beans. I weeded the garlic again, the asparagus is coming through and hopefully we will soon be able to eat the first spears. This year we should get a good harvest as the plants are well established. The spears look much fatter than last year so the mulching has helped through the winter. We also have French sorrel coming through and the first of the rhubarb is almost ready. The visiting Slow Food foragers thought it very odd that I had a bucket over my rhubarb. But I just love those pale pink tender stems that come from forced rhubarb. The colour is so pretty and the thin stems can be chopped and baked in muffins - they don't produce as much liquid as the thick green stems.
The soft fruit bushes are looking really good this spring. I hope the wind calms down when the flowers bloom, so that our "workers" are able to do their job. The bees hate a strong wind.
We're getting to grips with extending the vegetable garden. Peter ordered some peat last week and today he ploughed it into the clay and the whole area looks much more like it might actually be possible to grow something there!
When the boys have finished school, we'll get them out to help move the fence posts and then we can start building beds and transplanting some of the old plants into the new area.
Peter has gone to Ylöjärvi for a "boys and toys" outing at the Avant factory. He didn't take the trailer so whatever he ends up buying has to fit in the boot of the Qashqai. Avant has moved into the old Pilkington factory and warehouse. They have all the diggers on display and there is a man-size sandpit in the middle so fully-grown adults can play with the machines. Anyway. it's terrific to see a Finnish engineering company go international. These are the companies that create real jobs.
Meanwhile, Slow Food Helsinki came for a forage which was quite successful and after that went to Koskis farm in Salo to watch "Lehmalöikka" when the cows move out to their summer pastures. Pontius from the Köttkontrolen gastropub in Karis was there grilling pulled-beef burgers, so we had one of those for lunch. The cows are beautiful Herefords and the farm is in a wonderful location: it's a beautiful place with a lot of history and truly sustainable ethics.
We stopped in Backers bakery in Bollstad (near Fiskars) on the way back - I bought some of their new sourdough bread and some cardammon crispbread and then I came home and the others went on to Karis to visit Köttkontrolen. A busy day, it was exhausting being out in the wind all day but it was nice to go somewhere new, and fun being in a group.
On Saturday it just poured with rain all day so we went to Fiskars for lunch at Wärdhus (whitefish and asparagus with spinach and lemon) and visited to Red Cross fleamarket (got a book) and then went on to Billnäs to visit the fleamarket there. Peter got another axehead for his collection.
Couldn't do much in the garden though. I did some weeding before the rain started but otherwise spent the day indoors cleaning the cabin. It's still too early to plant things like French beans.
Today, Sunday, was more productive. We tapped a couple of birch trees and then did some more digging in the vegetable garden. We went up to Rosendal where Peter sowed the tansy field next to the house while I cleaned indoors.
Got up late (it's Vappu - the May Day holiday) and decided to repair the holes in the polytunnel. Standing outside the cabin with the sun shining on the plastic tunnel, it appeared that the poles had ripped through the sheeting on the roof of the tunnel. With wails of impending doom we ran into the tunnel only to discover that the tunnel was in fact intact - an optical illusion, rather weird. But anyway, we fixed all the small holes on the sides of the tunnel with the magic tape from the UK.
Then Peter dug another drainage ditch through a very damp area towards the southern end of the tunnel.
Meanwhile I split and transplanted some perennial herbs: chives, sage and tarragon. We are extending the vegetable garden and will change the layout of the whole area. Obviously the asparagus, rhubarb, garlic (planted last autumn) and the sorrel will stay where they are but everything else has been cleared out and we are redesigning the beds before we install the new fence. I moved the "green" blackcurrant outside the garden where all the others are. We dug up one blackcurrant that looked like it had big bud mite and threw it in the bin (not on the compost).
I'm amazed at how good the earth is in the vegetable garden now compared to a few years ago when we first started growing vegetables here. We must be doing something right.
Peter also spent a few hours on the tractor (the neighbours must love us) ploughing the lower fields on the Rosendal side. The earth there is rich and fertile, way better than the clay in Ovanträsk. These are difficult fields to manage as there is willow and marsh tea pushing through all over. We are going to try planting clover and using the fields to graze the sheep in the autumn. Before we can do that we need to widen the ditches around the fields so the sheep can't wander into the forest.
It's nice and warm in the polytunnel so we decided to plant the butternuts.
Autumn crown (a round butternut)
As usual we plant them quite close together as some will not germinate and we can always sell plants if we have too many or just pull them up. The seeds are planted about 3-4 cm deep on a ridge of earth that runs north-south through the tunnel. They will trail into the centre of the tunnel. We will have to water them by hand for a while until we get the pump fixed but there is so much moisture in the ground, it won't be a problem for a while.