East Finland

The extreme winter sub-zero temperatures have finally arrived to East Finland in 2012.

February 2012 has brought about a change in the climate of east Finland , cool air streams from Siberia has brought down mercury down below -30’C.  These measurements  of the temperatures usually come early in January.  The winter of 2012 seems to be back on track but some four weeks late, the effect of the cold should be seen in the ice conditions over the many lakes, especially in the south of the Arctic region.  This will enable tourist operators of east Finland to use snowmobiles and husky dog sleighs on tracks that run on lakes and along frozen rivers, and enable ice lake fishermen to access the many lakes safely.

East Finland
Frozen lake. All Copy Rights Reserved.Nordic Cusine Focus.com 2012.

 East Finland in many areas has remote wilderness areas for wildlife observation.

East Finland
WInter blue. All Copy Rights Reserved.Nordic Cuisine Focus. 2012.

East Finland winter holiday activities at the Hossan Holiday Park.

A wilderness hotel located some 70km south of Kuusamo (east Finland), there is the Hossan Lomakeskus (Hossan Holiday Centre).  They have a range of winter activities e.g. Snowmobiles, husky dog sleighs, snow shoe hire, XC-ski hire and reindeer park trips.

Hossan Holiday Centre web link.

East-Finland
Husky team-east Finland.Copy@All Rights Reserved. 2012.

 East Finland Picture Gallery.

 

Books

The autumn season and the Amazon Kindle e-book go hand in hand as the cascading seasons keep on rolling on the planet earth, now is the time that autumn season is about to give way to the winter season here in the Nordic region.

I have written and published an e-book through Amazon Kindle e-book.  The subject that i chose is history, and the story of the book starts at the Glacial maximum 90,000 BC, and the formation of an Ice Lake around 12000BC. It is those events that create the setting and the environment that the early pioneers seek and find.

My Amazon Kindle e-book story goes on about the indigenous peoples that lived on the shores of the Ice Lake which became the Baltic Sea for  about 8000 years.  It was not until 800AD that the Vikings arrived and opened up the River Highway to the far east through the Neva River-lake Ladoga  and beyond.

Here are some links to the Amazon Kindle e-book reader and other products.

Here is a link to my first Amazon Kindle e-book. There is also a large selection of other books, articles, magazines and news papers through Amazon Kindle e-book.

Also it is possible to download and read Amazon Kindle e-book without the Amazon Kindle device, by downlaoding the Amazon kindle e-book application for PC, Laptop computer, tablet or other mobile device.

Here is a small glimpse from the beginning of my first Amazon Kindle e-book:

“The Baltic Finns had a call of the wild in their blood, and the excitement of adventure, to go out and explore their back yard in the Nordic region. There were many real dangers, lurking in the dark unknown pine forests of the Nordic region. The flat terrains of the lake country, with thick bushy tree tops, autumn fogs and winter darkness, all increasing to the doom and gloom of getting lost. Also natural predators like the roaming brown bears, howling wolves and the charge pointed antlers of a wounded deer, was a real life threatening challenge during the Stone Age, when they faced the wild predators with the burnt sharp tips of the wooden spears, hefty clubs, bone edge knives and stone tipped arrows”.

 

Nordic mushrooms

Mushrooms in the Nordic season come in waves of succession according to their groups and sub-groups, the mushroom season stretches out over a three month period.

Mushrooms should be identified by at least five different characteristics: their morphological characteristics of the cap (cap top, color, patterns, shape, size, gills,) and the stem of the mushroom and it’s structure, scent can also be important feature for mushroom identification. It is vitally important to identify mushrooms correctly, there are very subtle differences with in a sub-group, and the difference can be huge in whether they are edible, what kind of preparation is required, how good they are rated (stars), and whether they are toxic.

Some mushrooms are extremely hazardous and others extremely deadly, others cause permanent organ damage.

Mushrooms can be identified but it takes some time to get familiar with the forest environment for the eyes to adjust and to see the many hundreds of mushrooms that grow.  Learning new things at first seem confusing, there are shapes, many sizes, colors, patterns and sign’s that are new without previous memory recognition, the new information needs to installed into the minds memory which is the correct data for recognition of mushrooms.

Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms (three star rating) have a distinguishable bright carrot orange color, it is not the only orange color mushroom in the Nordic region, or with in the Lactarius sub-group,  Lactarius deterrimus is another and it has a two star rating.

Preparation and cooking of the lactarius deliciosus mushrooms is simpler than some other lactarius mushrooms (boiling the wedges for 10 minutes), therefore a very convenient mushroom for the mushroom hunter.

Stock photos of Lactarius deliciosus mushrooms.

 

boletus-edulis-mushrooms
Penny bun mushrooms.Copy@All Rights Reserved.2010.

Autumn

Autumn has arrived here in the Nordic region of Finland.

The signs of autumn are visible in the birch tree leaves, and the strengthening winds of the autumn season. The autumn season is like a door that is closing on the many vital tasks of every day life, especially in the previous centuries gone by.

September is the beginning of Autumn in the Nordic region, September is also the last window of opportunity for foraging and gathering of forest mushrooms and the cranberries (lingonberries).

Many of the favorite autumn forest mushrooms and Ceps have come and gone by September, e.g. Chanterelle’s and the Boletus edulis Cep’s.  A very popular mushroom to prepare and store is the Lactarius, there are many types of mushrooms within the Lactarius group here locally, most of them edible, but they mostly require a preparation of boiling them in water for 10 min, then rinsing out in cold water until cool, and chilling. There are are some exception, e.g. lactarious deliciosus (no in water boiling required).

The prepared Lactarious mushroom then can be stored in a deep freezer, or salting very heavily. There is also the Lactarius helvus mushroom, that looks very similar to the above two Lactarius, but the Lactarius helvus is not edible, not even after boiling them for ten minutes, they cause belly aches.

The bilberry season is over for another year now in autumn 2011, the berries are mostly over ripe, and not suitable for picking, snacking for a few berries is still possible but many of the berries squish between fingers and ooze out a purple/blue bilberry bland juice.

The Vihta/Vasta season is also going out fast, the leaves of the birch trees have started to change color in this autumn and very soon will fall off the branches.  A Vihta without the leaves is more like a brush sweeper for the pavement than a Vasta for the back in the sauna house.

The wheat and the oat crops have been harvested from their fields before the autumn rains arrive, also the potatoes need to be gathered in before the rains come in autumn. Many of the fruit trees on the local farm houses still have apples on the trees, they also will be gathered in the autumn season.

Autumn season by nature and tradition a very busy time at the farmhouse for harvesting food crops and the preparation of food for the long winter ahead. Much of the berries gathered were made into condensed fruit juice, redcurrants, blackcurrants, bilberries, cranberries and others, also preserving of fruit jams and other fruits, salting and preserving of mushrooms, fish, and vegetables. The freeze drying of meat and fish usually is done during the winter time when the air is sufficiently -‘C cold and dry.

In the centuries past autumn season was the season when the cellar was filled with many types of raw vegetables: e.g. potatoes, onions, carrots, turnips, beetroots, dried sweet peas, and preserved fruits and juices. Even today many people on the land still have an underground cellar where the vegetables and preserved fruit are stored during the winter months, it is a very practical way of storing food here in the Nordic region.

Pictures of some Nordic Berries and mushrooms.

 

Teno Erakievari

Teno Eräkieväri, is a fine place to begin if you are looking for a place where to start the Natural Nordic wilderness experience of Lapland in Finland, and no need to look further, i can recommend the location to you.  It is the Teno Eräkieväri on the shore of the Teno river.   The far north border region between Norway and Finland has a great, pleasant climate during the summer months between May-July.  Temperatures around + 15 to +20’C (in 2011).

Pictures of the Nordic Tundra landscape.

I have visited and stayed at a border town (Nor/Fin) called Karigasniemi (Kari-Gas-Peninsula), and the Teno Eräkieväri hub, a small town that gets fair amount of tourist driving through to North Finland or accross the border to Norway, and also the Teno river/Inari river is a great place for salmon river fishing during the summer, it is a relatively short summer fishing season for tourists (June 1, to August 8).  The Salmon run up the river in mid-late summer, and spawn there upstream.

All year round activities from the Teno Eräkieväri of the Nordic Finland.

There is also ice fishing available in the area during the winter months. And there are many other activities and things to do, e.g. there are arctic lakes close by for fishing, and  also canoeing, bush walking, berry picking, hunting, cycling, nature photography, and the reindeer.

Outdoor activities from Teno Eräkieväri.

Teno eräkieväri
Teno river fishing.Copy@All RIghts Reserved.2011.

 

There are two grocery shops in Karigasniemi (one with a butcher shop, and the other with a shoe/gumboot/and clothe store),  there is also a church, two gas stations, a pub with food service, and a Pizza shop, hardware store, timber mill products, hairdresser and other day to day products.  Kari-gas-niemi is said to be a town with several cultures and languages, the Sami, Norwegian and Finnish, many people there can use all the above languages.  There is accommodation at kari-gas-niemi caravan park, and the local Pub and other river side cabins available further out of town.

Teno Eräkieväri for Accommodation.

Teno Eräkieväri is about seven km north from kari-gas-niemi along the road towards Utsjoki (Uts-river).  The place is called Teno Eräkievari, their web link is here:  Teno Eräkievari Accommodation + Restaurant.

They have two river front cabins at the site for rent, as well as other river front cabins /small houses further out.  Also there are accommodation rooms available at Teno Eräkievari; 2 x 4 person rooms, and 7 x 3 person rooms for rent.  Also an electric sauna house is available for the paying guests.  There is a river front sauna house also available for hire at a moderate hour rate €10 pp per hour, whether a house guest or just visiting.

Other activities at the Eräkieväri are (check seasonal changes) e.g. hire a local fishermen to row a boat for trawling the Salmon in the Teno river, it is a local knowledge/method that takes the lure/fly fishing to the spots where the salmon are to be found, the row boats that they use during the trawling do have motors, but they don’t use them while fishing. Hourly rate for the rower is €35 per hour, boat hire is €50 per day, excluding the cost of the fuel.

Canoe hire at the Teno Eräkieväri on the shore of the river Teno.

I hired a canoe from the Teno Eräkieväri for a day, it was great fun, it cost €30 per day.  The Teno river is a awesome river to canoe, it is relatively calm (June-August), it is also possible to paddle upstream because river is wide and the current is not that forceful.

teno-eräkieväri
The Teno River.Copy@All Rights Reserved.2011.

See pictures of my Teno River canoe trip from Teno Eräkieväri.

The Teno Eräkievari has a Bar +Restaurant and a small souvenir/post card shop, coffee and sweet buns (called Pulla) also served.  Teno Eräkieväri has a nice calm relaxed atmosphere with lots of natural wood decor in the coffee shop area, it is decorated in a Sami cultural theme, with lots of natural wood products, and also a bear wall rug and some stuffed animals in the function hall.  Other activities are also available during the winter snow months.  Always remember to carry a small bottle of mosquito repellant when outdoors, because during the summer months the mosquito can be overwhelming especially in the wet swampy areas when bush walking.  Here are some photo images from Teno Eräkieväri dining/function area, it really presents well, and you get a feel of the Nordic/Fennoscandia Sami culture and environment in the far north of Finland.

accomodation-teno-eräkieväri
Teno Eräkieväri dining.Copy@All RIghts reserved.2011.

 

 

Summer season

Nordic Summer season with the migrating bird life.

This month of June is the beginning of the Nordic summer season for this year of 2011. It has really kicked off quick smart, the warm weather and the rain showers has  transformed the environment to a dark green color with lots of wild flowers already on the ground.  The sea ducks have built their nests and the duckling have already hatched, i have spotted lots of them and photographed some.  Here are some of them during the recent Nordic summer season:  The Common Merganse, (Mergus Merganser), Common Eider (Somateria mollissima), Barnacle Goose (Branta leucopsis), Gavia arctica, and the White Swans (genus Cygnes).  They hatched/arrived to the water in that order, as i observed and took pictures of them.

Sea Duck pictures.

Nordic Summer season along the shores of the Bothnia Sea.

These pictures are from the West coast of Finland, known as the  Gulf of Bothnia.  Migrating birds seem to favor nesting and populating along the sea shores, particular if there are small islands and rock outcrops where they can build nests without having to worry so much about predators e.g. fox’s, lynx or the cat’s.  Small islands seem to be the safest place for sea ducks to build a nest during the Nordic summer season.

Building of Bird nesting boxes during the Nordic summer season.

The Gavia Arctica Sea duck naturally builds her nest in a hollow tree, people being aware of that, and also being self aware of their impact on the natural environment, e.g. chopping down trees, they have been putting up “bird boxes” for centuries.  They come in various size and shapes, for the birds along the seas shores and along the lake shores near peoples summer shacks.

There are many types of bird boxes built for various types of birds, they are usually either for  the larger water birds or the smaller inland birds, the size of the box and the entrance to it, is usually a give away for what type of bird it was build for.  The Woody wood pecker has a habit of finding a bird box with a too tight hole, then without second thoughts hammers it, like it was tailor made for his/her purpose.  Not sure whether they just do it out of curiosity, or serious plans for nesting there.  Some of the bird nesting boxes that i have seen has an metal plate built over the entrance hole (with a hole in the center), to prevent the woodpeckers from hammering it to their size needs.

For an update of latest pictures of migrating birds and summer flowers during the Nordic summer season, visit the above link, and happy days during your summer season wherever that may be.

 

Vihta or Vasta?

You may be wondering, what on earth is a Vihta or a Vasta?  It does sound like a new computer program, but no, it is not a computer program.

The word Vihta/Vasta in Finland means a traditional fresh green leaf whisk that is used in the hot sauna house to whack the back of a person.  By doing so it generates more concentrated heat to the back by fanning the hot air.  The whacking action of the bound bunch of soft birch branches (with green leaves) to the back also works like a light massage effect, with concentrated heat, and the slapping of the green leaves of the birch.

Now is the best time to be making a Vihta, the birch branches are fresh and green, they also have a refreshing fragrance.  The new branches are soft and easy to shape into a band to hold the birch branches together in a tight bunch.

Vihta can be prepared in bulk during the summer season, and stored for winter.

Vihta/Vasta can also be made ready and stored in a dry store or a freezer.  They are usually stored by hanging them indoors undercover from a line.  Before use they are soaked in hot water for 30 minutes to refresh them before use.  The freezing method works well also, they do need to be wrapped securely in plastic to protect the leaves from a frost bite, otherwise the leaves dry and break up.  Also as the drying method, soak it before use in hot water for 30 min.

Awakened and refreshed Vihta does bring the fragrance and the colors of summer back to the hot sauna room during the freeze of winter.

A spring sauna birch Vihta in the middle of winter is a great reminder of the summer  season with fragrance and the next spring season to come.  It really is a great reminder of the wonders of natural summer season, during the snow covered winter months, when there is no green to be seen on the ground for 6 months of the year here in the Nordic region.

Pictures of a birch Vihta.

Birch trees a great source for making craft items.

The Birch branches, the bark and the timber has traditionally being used for many purposes.  The flexible white paper like bark of a birch tree was used for making ribbon baskets, shoes, wall decorations, book marks and many other craft items.  Branches also are useful material for crafting baskets, fencing, or fishing traps, along with the branches used to lure the fish during the spawning season.  Birch as a fire wood has excellent qualities, the bark (provided with the wood) is almost like paper, easy to light with a match.  The timber blocks split easily into straight segments, the birch timber is very user friendly, and it is valued highly by the people that live on the land.

 

 

White Swan

The White Swan (Cygnus cygnus), is the national bird of Finland.

It is a large white water bird, with yellow color visible on the peak, the young swans are grey in color.  They are identified also from their “whooping” or “Tooting” trumpet sound.  Adult swan weighs approx 6.5-11.5 kg, their wing span is about 2.3-2.4 metres apart.  They make their nest in the reeds on water, or it can be on dry land also.  They lay their eggs in May-June, 4-6 eggs, the female hatches them for 40 days.  The newly hatched swans are able to fly in 45-60 days time, the swan adults live in pairs and relatively private during their nesting time and fend off other swans/birds aggressively.

In the 1950 white swans almost became extinct in Finland, they became protected and their numbers have increased rapidly since then.  It is estimated that there are 4500-6000 pairs of swans during the summer, most migrate to and fro from Finland each year, however some stay the winter depending on the winter conditions and available water free of ice cover.

Source of information.

The white Whooper swans can been seen at quiet bays of the sea shore paddling in pairs, they are obviously planning ahead for another successful egg hatching summer.  They constantly swim/feed what  seem to be some kind of sea weeds/tubers/grass.

Pictures of white swans.

“In the Finnish epic Kalevala, a swan lives in the Tuoni river located in Tuonela, the underworld realm of the dead. According to the story, whoever killed a swan would perish as well. Jean Sibelius composed the Lemminkäinen Suite based on Kalevala, with the second piece entitled Swan of Tuonela (Tuonelan joutsen). Today, five flying swans are the symbol of the Nordic Countries and the whooper swan (Cygnus cygnus) is the national bird of Finland”.-Wikipedia.

White Swans in Mythology and Antiquity.

In the rock art of Karelia there are pictures of swans, those people are sometimes called the “water bird nation”(vesilintukansa).  According to the belief of the Karelian people the white swans should not be harmed, if they were harmed the same fate would return on that person as the injured swan.  Because when swans are feeding their heads are submerging under the surface of the water, therefore it is believed that swans have access to the underworld/hades as well.

Artists, Musicians and Poets inspired by the White Swans.

Sibelius with “Lemminkäinen” and Eino leino with the “Swan of the Hades” have been inspired by the symbolism that first started in picture art.

Oi, valkolinnut, vieraat Lapin kesän, te suuret aatteet, teitä tervehdän!
Oi, tänne jääkää, tehkää täällä pesä, jos muutattekin maihin etelän!
Oi, oppi ottakaatte joutsenista! Ne lähtee syksyin, palaa keväisin.
On meidän rannoillamme rauhallista ja turvaisa on rinne tunturin”.

When translated it brings thoughts like these:

Oh the visiting white birds of the Lapland summer, the great idealogical beings, you i welcome!   Please stay, make your nest here, if you do go to the lands of the south!  Oh, do study and learn from the Swans!  They leave in the autumn, and return in the spring.  There is peace on our shores and safety on the breast of the Tundra“. -own translation.

Source-Wikipedia-Laulujoutsen.

 

Easter decorations

The Christian Easter tradition is also celebrated in Finland, the word “Pääsiäinen” (Easter), meaning end of fast, the 40 day period prior to Easter Sunday.  Palm Sunday to Good Friday, and the celebrated Easter Sunday. In the Christian church as the most important celebration day is the Resurrection Sunday.

There are many types of traditional Easter decorations e.g; Easter rye grass, painted egg shells, willow baskets, decorated flowering willow branches with bunny tails.

Young Children (4-12yrs) in some areas go door knocking to bless their neighbors for the coming spring/year, they are rewarded usually with some lollies/biscuits or a few cent donation.

Two opposed traditions during the Easter weekend.

It is the opposite of what the custom of the Trolls was back in the dark ages, apparently the story goes that there were witches that went around during the time between Good Friday and Easter Sunday, because there was a belief that during that time landowners pets and live stock was susceptible to curses, so they gave it their best to punish the landowners pets and live stock.  Mostly they were outcast single women on the fringe of society and also bitter of their misfortune.

Pictures of flowering Easter willow bunny tails.

 

 

 

 

Easter food

Mämmi (Maam-me) is a traditional Easter dish that was eaten in Finland as early as the 12 century.  It is also mentioned in cook books that date back to the 16 century.

It first apperaed in the South West and on the West coast of Finland, where the Catholic church was established.  It was not until the 17 century when mämmi made it’s way to the north and central Finland.  There are divided opinions about mämmi also in Finland, some enjoy it, others loath it.

It was a food dish used in the Catholic church during the Easter fasting, meat and dairy products were not consumed on Fridays, so Mämmi became the Easter Friday food and part of the Easter cultural tradition in Finland.

It is said to symbolize the unleavened bread that the Jews eat during the Passover.  Mämmi is made by using rye flour, rye malt, water and sweetened with molasses, and seasoned with salt.  When the mixture is prepared it is allowed to mature and sweeeten naturally for many hours. It is like a wet rye porridge sweetened with molasses, then the final stage is made by baking it an oven like a pudding/casserole.  It is consumed either hot or cold, with milk/cream like a pudding.

Mämmi has a long history and it is part of the Finnish Easter food culture, it is also healthy to eat, it was part of a religious discipline in fasting during the easter time.  Dispite it’s innocent history, and cultural significance, Mämmi is often discriminated and scoffed at similar as the  Vegemite in Australia.  Vegemite and Mämmi are very similar in color, they are both dark brown.

Crossing cultural borders does often bring surprises in ethnic cuisine discovery, and without the necessary knowledge, and the story/beginning/tradition, then it just may seem odd to have brown porridge that is baked in an oven.  Rye has been very much part of the Finnish culture, there are many good reason for that, one of them is the health benefits of eating wholemeal rye bread in their farming/forrestry/agricultural communities during meal breaks.

 

 

ingredients, nutrition, customs, tradition and culture.