The sun returned to Lapland today. The polar darkness is over and the north got 48 minutes of daylight, the first of its kind, this year. (16.1.2017). It sounds like a blip of a day but it must be such a relief after all that darkness and blue light. They really must be experts on stars, bless their woolly socks and all that.
We have more than 6 hours of daylight during the day now, but it feels like we are running a military operation, fitting everything within to that timeframe. With all I mean for everyone to see a bit of natural light each day and to get all things done, that are tricky to do while using a flashlight as the main source of illumination. The tractor has a good set of extra spotlights and sometimes I wish I could have some too. Instead I end up stumbling along, falling over a lot and generally feeling like a slow worm. Everything seems to take so long in the darkness and snow.
Having said that, I do enjoy the darker time of the year, as such. It's just that there is not that much time to sit around lighting candles and enjoying the slow pace of life, like the Danes wants us to do. Their concept of cozy called "hygge" is still popping up everywhere, in books, magazines and on the radio. I am one to call a spade a spade so to me that's a wonderful evening at home, but that's just me being ordinary.
Ebba likes the darkness. With her ability to see in the dark, hear everything that's going on for miles and miles and her amazing sense of smell, she is sorted. I on the other hand wobble along behind her, seeing some, hearing less and with my small, blocked nose smelling nothing whatsoever. So, I cannot say that it's my favorite time of the year for evening walks. Not even short ones. I can see the point in driving to a more lit up area with your dog and walking comfortably for some time before drive home again. Ebba would not agree as she still finds cars to be unsafe. She would also hate walking amongst strangers, especially men. So yet again, dear husband is the one doing the long walks with our funny, sweet but slightly hyper dog.
This is the first winter in a long time when I have flicked through my agenda, dreaming of the spring to come. First time that I'm doing it in January, that is. We still have most part of the winter left and Mindy, Mandy, Molly, My and I are discussing green grass, coffee under the Rowan tree and roaming hens. It's going to be a long wait.
I know this sounds like a tale of the winter blues to you but it really is not. It's just that all we get is super cold, super warm, mega icy and dry snow on top of that. What are we supposed to do with that, the animals and us? Only the hens and Ebba can stay upright in these conditions and it's getting me down. I want everyone to have fun and to enjoy the few rays of sunshine there is to catch at midday. Apparently, it's too much to ask and I'm greedy.
In the meantime, we muddle through with artificial lights, bruised knees and some very dark humour. Not to forget good books, good company and lots and lots of food. My dear husband sings while skating about and he organises his use of daylight more efficiently than me. Nothing new under the sun there but I still admirer him for it. Ebba just admires him, full stop.
Through all this our dear young hens produce eggs as beautiful as near perfection can be. Brown, light brown, light green and blueish in colour with thick, strong shells to boot. The hens eat enormous amount of food and like cooked food every day. Porridge, risotto with corn and peas, potatoes made into mash and some leftovers from our table and it all seems to be their favorite food. Apart from cooked food they get apples, chopped up cabbage and carrots and sometimes some more exotic vegetables. I think I just figured out why the eggs taste quite nice. (As I've told you before, they always have access to dry food for egg laying hens, pealed sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and oats).
Preparing this plus the chopping vegetables for the sheep takes me almost an hour each morning. I drink my morning pot of coffee and plan the day while chopping carrots and throwing a ball quietly, with Ebba. If someone saw us they would get in the men in white coats or a team recording cookery shows. Ebba could host a show about how to play football the stylish way. They would just have to edit out the gnawing of the football as that is not healthy, nor stylish at all....
So, these ramblings prove that what we need some good old fashion winter weather. Crisp air, packed, non-sloppy, non-slippery snow and some sun. This would mean long walks with our dog, happy meandering sheep and everyone else just happy.
Is it really too much to ask?
Turned out that it was not, as the following week showed us the sun for two whole days. Oh, what happy days they were for all and everyone.
Last week our local town had some problems with a small amount of bacteria in the water. So, everyone was asked to boil the water and generally use their common sense. This was informed on- line and on the local and national radio. It dawned on me that listening to BBC probably would not keep us informed if something serious were to happen. Fortunately, we have our own well.
I remember the safety drills from school. We were told to hide under our desks to save us from the bomb. This was during the Cold War, so hiding would maybe not have helped, had a catastrophe occurred.
In the Nineties we were told to keep a torch, a radio with working batteries and a full length raincoat ready in case of an emergency. (This was at work) You would really have felt like a right ninny, had we all been blown away, standing there in that ugly raincoat. Not to mention turning up at the pearly gate, hearing someone call out about "Not another Finn!" (You see I'm an optimist, and they fly upwards).
When Chernobyl did happen, we were all out picking berries and mushrooms, so we probably glow in the dark. A bit like Ebba's new frisbee. She really loves her funny new toy.
There was a discussion on the radio about what you would bring to a bomb shelter if a crisis was to occur. This was while driving to work one morning in December and it did not give me a fuzzy Christmas feel. Apparently, Sweden had done a survey and it was now talked about over here. People called in about books, food and comfortable things to wear. While the radio program carried on it hit me that my answer would be my nearest and dearest and a small zoo. The horrid feel of doom did not leave me all day and I still thought about it going to bed. I dislike doom and gloom.
The weather is getting more extreme, the world is often a cruel place and soon the world’s reserve of drinkable water will run out. Sad thoughts do turn up now and again. When they do I think of the ugly, full length raincoat and smile to myself. Being naive and slightly silly can sometimes help more than hard core realism. When needs be, I will lend a hand and not hide my head in the sand. Until then I might just sing out loud, hug a sheep and kiss a dog on her nose. This might give me worms but I'm a daredevil, so I will risk it.
I still have plans to do a year of more substance but this text just arrived, for some reason. Have a good week and remember to sing out loud and sing out clear, if you can manage it.
Thanks to Ebba's antics I'm once again going down memory lane. Our newest friend makes me think of the boxer dogs we had as children. Ebba finds it hilariously funny to run past me really fast, close to my legs and so far, it's been a success. She has a sleek, catlike running style (as she is still on the slim side) but it makes me think of what will happen if she crashes into me...
When our boxer Stina was a young dog she tried to do the same and sent my sister flying high up in the air. I can't have been very old at the time but I can still remember it. I can even show you where it happened. She was a young girl at the time, but think what the same would do to an older, heavier me. We have discussed this with Ebba, but she just laughs it off as ramblings of an old lady....
Ebba has a lot of the boxer dog humor as well as the craving for adventure. Everything must be tasted, tested and played with. Being a dog who believes in hard work makes her a challenge for all of us. Ebba believes in getting things done, so we are constantly on high alert around her. We also love her to bits...
I had a lovely goat called Dinny when I was a child. She was born in the village, at my cousin’s place, so Dinny got to grow up alongside her mother My. She was my cousin's goat and we had good fun - the four of us and the goats were happy to have each other as well.
I think goats are the best animals and I would like to have some of our own. The problem is that I'm not twelve years old anymore. In order to be a good goat herder, in my opinion, you have to be young, childish, creative and have all the time in the world for your animals. (Now I'm talking goats as pets, not hundreds of milk-producing goats).
Dinny and I had brilliant days. She was a very kind soul, who was lacking horns and probably thought she was a dog. She followed me everywhere, went for long walks with whoever walked our dog and sneaked indoors for a nap on my parent's bed. This, usually when I was away so I was called back to sort it out. At least she did not smell strongly of goat.
Dinny lived with our horses and was a good companion to them, as she did not nudge or push them. She never grew horns so there was never the question of "to keep or not to keep them?" thank goodness. There was a billy goat in the village with impressive horns and we still remember the pain from them.
Dinny and I enjoyed rock climbing, jumped hurdles and we spent time hanging out, reading books on the lawn. Just like you should if you've chosen to keep some goats. Dinny even enjoyed being out on the water as she was a sea faring goat and a proud one. Cars was okay too. I still miss her...
If we kept goats today, we would not have time for all of that and they would get bored, run away to seek their own adventures and it would be no fun at all. We would feel like we failed and the goats would agree. But maybe one day, you never know....
So now we have super-dog Ebba keeping us fit. No question of reading books on any lawns as Ebba would either eat the book or distract us until we gave up. There is a small matter of cold and snow at the moment, too. Morning coffee in bed is not the same relaxing affair as it used to be, as we now have huge paws flying around our ears. Ebba likes to stretch in the bed... Mr. Chip had tiny feet and slept through the whole coffee ritual.
Things change, we hope for the best and thank our lucky stars for every beautiful animal that finds its way to us. Without them life would be orderly, maybe even prim and proper and much too tame for our liking. It would be nice to be able to walk with our dog without falling over, though...
Experts say that you should always remember to laugh out loud with your animals. We do that on a regular basis and I think it's a therapy session saved for all and everyone. Ebba laughs a lot too..
Darya the hen believes in the joy of spending time with good friends so she joins our kind sheep when they go outside, in the mornings. The snow covers the ground at the moment so after a while she jumps up and warms her feet. She is loved by all four feet warmers and they laugh a lot together, too...
Take care and remember that chocolates are a must in January too, whatever the radio tells us!
So the New Year started with an almighty cold spell, but with at least some snow on the ground. The previous winter was cold while the fields were still bare and that was slightly frightening. Everything turned rock hard and icy and I worried about all the wild birds out there without snow to keep them warm. So fortunately we had a windy snowstorm day first and then minus 20 degrees.
It turns out our friendly dog loves winter and particularly the cold days. Ebba also loves mice, cheese and bones made of elk skin. If she made a list of all her favorite things, snow would come in first place. My dear husband would be in the top five but would probably find himself beaten by tennis balls, buffalo meat and the fore mentioned cheese.
With the diet she keeps it's no wonder that Ebba is putting on weight. Not a lot of extra but enough to develop some muscles and to make her look well and fit. Her appetite is much better and the more she does, the hungrier she gets. Common sense.
Ebba started the New Year by being very brave (according to her) and greeted my kind sister. First Ebba went over and sniffed a "Hello" and then after a few more meetings she nibbled on my long-suffering sister's hand. The build up to these meetings took two weeks, so our dog is thorough in her screening process. Nice people, wanting to hang out with Ebba, should book most part of a month for the meeting, just to be on the safe side. After all this socialising the super dog went hundred and ten around the household, just to let of steam. It was a huge milestone for a shy animal, although maybe not the biggest step for mankind. Ebba just sniffs when told about moon landings.
Mindy, Mandy, Molly and My have enjoyed the cold spell immensely. They seem to think that all the cleaning I have to do in the stable, when everyone's indoors, is just for their entertainment. Molly helps out by being in the way and Mandy's new game is called "Roadblock". This game requires a lot of patience as Mandy finds herself a good spot and then stands her ground. No amount of pushing, bribes or begging can shift her before she is ready. So I clean around her and she gets a lot of attention. Mandy seems to feel that I care too much about clean living but would also be the first to complain if she had to sleep in dirt. I have thought of offering her services to the local police department. No one would get past this roadblock and she is sweet and kind if people took the time to talk to her. It could be a sort of block-therapy.
Mindy, our dear white sheep has been a bit preoccupied and with good reason. She worries a lot about the young hens and their eggs. Where will the eggs turn up, will she get to see them and will she have the chance to sniff encouragingly at the said hens. Mindy is such a caring sheep that there are always some eggs to be found amongst the hay in the sheep pen. I stepped on a few this week, I have to admit, but the sheep never break any. Their sense of smell helps them out, I'm sure. I just have big feet.
As it's been so cold we have had a 25kg sawdust bale warming up in the house before moving it in for the sheep. This B&B comes with warm bedding and cabbage, carrots, apples and turnips for breakfast. Shame about the staff, though.
Friends and I have been discussing hens and their behavior problems lately. Some breeds are really nasty and boredom is a killer to any old hen and good manners. Our feather dusters get to do a lot indoors. They have the sheep to ride around on, sand baths, small mountains of hay to climb upon and lots of different things to eat. They also get to choose where to leave their egg for us to find and that can take forever to decide. They have space to fly around and they love hanging out by the stable door, on the concrete floor. You can't win! Our three guest hens love snow. Whenever I bring in some snow with my big feet, three happy hens come jogging up to scoff the lot. This seems to tickle them pink and I have to clean my boots before entering so we don't get hens with very cold tummies in the process. It is a funny game, though.
A new year is here and I keep thinking how to honour it. I should do more voluntary work for different foundations and I will do just that. I would also like to create world peace but that might take some time so I'll just try to be a nicer person firstly. What I think we need is a way to get less technology and more substance into the life of today's children. What kind of childhood memories can you tell, when most of your daily activities have been tied up with a phone or a computer? So there's a thought.
Maybe this year I can give ideas of how to do things the old fashion way. Just joking, I don't seem to remember much and I'm not old enough for that but somehow this year will be about substance. In what form, time will tell.
Take care and be happy.
One hour left of the year 2016 and I'm hanging out with Ebba the dog.
Why people still find loud explosions and bright fire works to be exiting is beyond me and I'm sure most animals share this question with me. We have had constant loud noises since 6pm from the neighbouring villages and it's getting worse. The television has been on all evening blocking out as much as possible, but Ebba does not seem to be bothered by all the noise pollution, which is a blessing. Now it's time for this household to go to bed and hopefully Ebba will carry on being completely cool about it all.
We went out for a last nip behind a bush (Ebba, not me) and the new family in this village chose that very moment to send a lot of money into the air, killing the ozone layer as well as the little peace there was. I jumped, but Ebba sat down watching it all before doing her bit for the nitrogen level in the soil, this time helping the apple trees. She is a funny dog who still finds energy to be petrified by family and friends but who calmly watches fireworks. Still, it makes her New Years Eve less stressful. We do know that she can see and hear, if you are wondering.....
Our young hens decided that Christmas Eve was the right day to start their egg production. Small, beautiful eggs are now to be found all over the stable and once again our dear sheep get pecked in their noses while trying to eat their hay. Monty still only has eyes for our three guests so all this new activity is going right past him.
Oh, Happy New Year to you all! It's now the year of the Rooster, according to the Chinese. We will all become sporty, brave and hard working, amongst other brilliant things. Ebba and dear husband will fit right in, whereas our lovely sheep and I will have to sit this one out. Hard work is fine but no one can blame us for too much sportiness. Our super hens can fit into any old party, being such versatile creatures...
So that was the year of 2016....
We miss dear, sweet Mr. Chip and remember a time when there was no dog jumping over furniture. We are keeping our fingers crossed for our friends, the otters, and wishing them all the best at their fishing course.
We wish this New Year will come with a bit more sanity, world-wide and that peace will once again find it's way into people's hearts.
We remember dear departed friends and send them all our love, up to those clouds in heaven, where they sit and rest. We also remember friends and family, nearby and far away.
It’s New Year, a new beginning and yet so much is the same. That's the way animals like it and that is good enough for us.
Be well, be safe and be happy! Love from all of us at Stoneback farm.
A blog about a small holding in Southern Finland. Each original story is accompanied by a stunning watercolour illustration or resplendent photographs.