Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bike ride, boat ride

Every now and then a few of us will get together and ride bikes. This summer we decided to repeat the ride of a few years back. From Jyväskylä to Laukaa along country roads, then a ride on a packet boat back to Jyväskylä.

This trip included myself along with my friends Hokki and Matti. The weather seemed promising when Hokki and I headed towards Vaajakoski to pick up Matti. Five minutes out of Vaajakoski it became necessary for us to seek refuge from the rain under a conveniently located bus shelter.

The rain let up and the sun came out and we continued on our journey towards Laukaa. The weather held up nicely until the last possible minute, but by then we had arrived at the Laukaa Harbor and its cafe.

We made it indoors and the rain began to pour down again.

The harbor cafe serves a nice plate of makkaraperunat. Just what a serious cyclist needs after a rough hour of downhill pedaling.

The skies cleared, we went for a swim and made it back to the pier just in time to flag down the Suomen Suvi.

The Laukaa harbor as seen from the deck of the Suomen Suvi.

To get to Jyväskylä from Laukaa by boat you have to pass through two sets of locks. The first lock is at Kuhankoski.

The Kuhankoski lock opening up to let the water out.

Central Finland landscape off the starboard bow.

The Wanha Woimala (Old Power Plant) as seen from the Vaajakoski lock.

Approaching Lake Jyväsjärvi.

Downtown Jyväskylä on the horizon.

The Ainolanranta and Suuruspää neighborhoods, the Kuokkala Bridge, and off our port bow, the Suomi. The Suomi is a steamship which has been plying the waters of Lake Päijänne since 1906. Information about Hilden Lines boat tours can be found here.

The bikes waiting to disembark at the Jyväskylä Harbor.

Our approximate route:

Näytä Bike ride to Laukaa, Boat ride to Jyväskylä suuremmalla kartalla

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

the garden - july update

Waiting for baby meant that we didn't make it to the summer cabin for a month. One would think that my vegetable patch would have suffered, but I am blessed with quite possibly the best in-laws in the world. Despite my absence weeds were hoed, plants were staked, thinned, and fertilized. Quite possibly things are in better condition than they would have been had I managed to be there myself.

Looking at the garden, with sweet corn and kitchen herbs in the foreground.

Beets, sugarsnap peas aka peapods aka sokeriherneet, and lettuce of the lollo rosso variety

Sokeriherneet aka sugarsnap peas. Ready to eat.

Sunflowers. One in bloom, another in the drying phase.

I thinned the carrots. Oskari and I polished off this handfull.

Even the sky is bigger in Etelä-Pohjanmaa

We spent last weekend in Etelä-Pohjanmaa. The potato fields were flowering and the clouds were rolling over Lake Lappajärvi. I was reminded that even the sky is bigger in Etelä-Pohjanmaa. Sometimes referred to as the Texas of Finland, Etelä-Pohjanmaa has a reputation for occasionally being somewhat over-the-top.

The smell of a potato field in bloom should be experienced by everyone at least once in their lives.

Lake Lappajärvi

Hayfield under a South Ostrobothnia sky.

A side note: The residents of South Ostrobothnia like to brag about the size of their fields - they even refer to their open areas as lakeus or plains. If you are familiar with the plains of the midwest or the agricultural areas of France, I suggest that you just nod and smile and compliment them on the vastness of their little meadows. The Ostrobothnians are a sensitive bunch and hurting their feelings isn't recommended.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Kantarelleja - Chanterelles

Kantarelli, keltavahvero, chanterelle, Cantharellus cibarius - one of my favorite mushrooms. This is the time of year to find them, whether you search the forests or your local marketplace.

Time to make an omelette.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Kesäkeitto - Summer soup (recipe in English)

During my visit to the Jyväskylä tori yesterday, I picked up most of the ingredients that I would need for kesäkeitto (summer soup), a perfect way to recognize that during a few months of the year you can get fresh vegetables in Finland which have been grown under open skies and natural sunlight, as opposed to under sodium and halide lamps in a mylar tunnel.

Kesäkeitto is simple and when preparing food is concerned, simple is good.

To make kesäkeitto for 4 people you will need the following ingredients (the fresher the better):

1 small cauliflower or half of a larger one

6-8 teeny tiny baby carrots (real baby carrots - not the ones that have been whittled out of big carrots) or 3-4 not-so-tiny carrots

about 6 new potatoes

a few handfulls of shelled peas

about 3 cups of water (that's about 7 dl)

salt (use something good that doesn't taste of iodine)

black pepper

2 tablespoons of flour (wheat or all-purpose)

about 2 cups of milk (4-5 dl)

about 1/3 cup of cream (1/2 dl)

1 egg yolk

fresh parsley

1. Prep your vegetables. Mine ended up looking like this:

I happened to have a stalk that was left from a head of broccoli, so I peeled and sliced it and threw it into the mix.

2. Salt the water and bring it to a boil. Add the cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes. Simmer for 5 - 10 minutes, or until they begin to become tender.

3. Mix the flour with a splash of milk until smooth. Add this mixture and the rest of the milk to the vegetables and saltwater. Simmer for another 3 -5 minutes or so, while constantly stirring.

4. Add the peas and some coarse ground black pepper. Turn off the heat.

5. Mix the cream with the egg yolk using a fork or a whisk. Temper this mixture with a few spoonfuls of the hot soup and then add to the kettle. Stir the soup well, put the lid on the kettle and let it rest for a few minutes.

6. Add a handfull of chopped parsley and you are good to go. Serve with real butter and your favorite bread.

The finished product should look something like this:

Kesäkeitto aka Summer soup

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Jyväskylän kauppatori - The Jyväskylä market

Today was sunny and warm. A great day to head to the market.

Where to find the market in Jyväskylä:

Näytä Kauppatori - Marketplace, Jyväskylä suuremmalla kartalla

The Jyväskylä marketplace is better this summer than it has been for years - perhaps because it is no longer an isolated island in a sea of construction areas. The new apartment buildings in the area may also have something to do with the renewed popularity of the market. It is easy to get to, there are plenty of vendors, and 3 different market cafes to choose from.

The marketplace is a great resource for city residents to get fresh local produce in the summertime and way more fun than shopping at a mega-super-hypermart.

Today's grocery purchases - all fresh, all local. Blueberries for the freezer, vegetables for kesäkeitto (summer soup) - photos and recipe to follow shortly. The potatoes are of the siikli variety. (Sieglinde, a hybrid from the 30's) The bread, a smokey rye.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Metsämansikoita - Wild Strawberries

They are out there if you know where to look. The wild strawberry is a part of some of my finest childhood memories. Hayfields of summer with my mom or my grandma, searching through the leaves for little berries no bigger than a child's fingertip. My old man transplanted some wild strawberries to the garden where they grew to twice their normal size.

My blueberry connection was at his usual park bench today and had a few containers of wild strawberries for sale. Seven euros for half a liter. Expensive, I know, but you have to have priorities. Good, fresh food is at the top of my list.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Suomalaiset sikarit - Finnish cigars

In 1997, Johan Sundqvist, an old hand in the Finnish tobacco industry, decided to set out on his own, and founded Cigar Factory J. Sundqvist. Located in Parainen (Pargas) , the factory is doing well, despite the fact that tobacco advertising has been illegal in Finland since well before Sundqvist's firm was founded.

I quit smoking cigarettes a while back and I've never been much of a cigar guy, but when our son was born a few days ago I decided to hand out cigars to my friends. I decided to buy Finnish, something I do whenever possible. I chose Sundqvist's Mezzo Piano, a senorita-sized cigar.

To my unsophisticated palate they tasted like cigars, although a friend of mine who smokes cigars regularly assures me that they are quite good.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mustikoita - Blueberries

Blueberries are now in season. Some may call them bilberries. At any rate, the berries of the Vaccinium myrtillus bush are now waiting out there in the forest for those who know where to find them.

An extremely recent addition to our family has made fishing and foraging out of the question for me, at least for the time being.

Luckily, on the way home from the post office, I passed by an old gentleman selling the berries that he had picked this morning. He was on a bench in the shade in Kirkkopuisto, a park quite close to our home.

Four euros for half a liter seemed pretty steep, but a liter was ten euros at the marketplace yesterday. The price will go down as the berry season progresses.

The old fellow selling berries was exercising his Jokamiehen oikeudet or Everyman's rights. Everyman's rights allow for free right of access to land and waterways and also give the right to harvest wild berries and mushrooms regardless of who owns the land. These rights also generally apply to foreign citizens. Income from selling berries that you have picked yourself is tax-free in Finland.

Everyman's right in brief (From Ministry of the Environment website)

Everyone may:

walk, ski or cycle freely in the countryside, except in gardens, in the immediate vicinity of people’s homes, and in fields and plantations which could easily be damaged
stay or set up camp temporarily in the countryside, a reasonable distance from homes
pick wild berries, mushrooms and flowers, as long as they are not protected species
fish with a rod and line
row, sail or use a motorboat on waterways, with certain restrictions; swim or wash in inland waters and the sea
walk, ski and fish on frozen lakes, rivers and the sea

You may not:

disturb other people or damage property
disturb breeding birds, or their nests or young
disturb reindeer or game animals
cut down or damage living trees, or collect wood, moss or lichen on other people’s property
light open fires on other people’s property, except in an emergency
disturb the privacy of people’s homes, by camping too near them, or making too much noise, for example
leave litter
drive motor vehicles off road without the landowner’s permission
fish or hunt without the relevant permits

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Villasukat - Wool Socks

The Marttaliito (Martha Organization) is a Finnish home economics organization that was founded in 1899. The Marthas' original purpose was to assist in the creation of a responsible and enlightened population by teaching basic home economics skills. Today the Marthas are active in the areas of promoting good nutrition, home gardening, household economics, consumer issues, and civic and cultural education. They also have some international projects including a program in Burkina Faso.

In honor of their 110th anniversary, the Marthas are making sure that every baby born in Finland this year gets a pair of homemade wool socks. That's about 60,000 pairs of socks knit by Martha Organization members. The Finnish Midwive's Association is recognizing their own 90 year anniversary by distributing the socks to newborns and their families.

Reino got his socks yesterday.

Monday, July 13, 2009


Lanttukukko is a close relative of kalakukko. Lanttu means rutabaga. In some parts of the English speaking world rutabagas are also known as swedes or neeps.

A rye crust wrapped around filling composed of rutabagas and pork, lanttukukko makes a great snack anytime. Some recipes leave out the pork, making the lanttukukko vegan and therefore lacking the fatty pork flavor which makes it so good in the first place.

This particular lanttukukko was made by Kajaanin Kukkoleipuri Ky. I picked it up this morning at Mestarin Herkku in downtown Jyväskylä.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

4-viljan luomuleipä - Organic 4-grain bread

A nice loaf of bread from Palokan Perinneleipurit. All of the ingredients are organic. This bread is readily available in various stores around Jyväskylä.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Pro Fish

If you ever find yourself in Central Finland and looking for fishing gear I recommend Pro Fish. Located in downtown Jyväskylä, these guys have got everything you are going to need. They also stock outdoors clothing and equipment and Finnish puukko knives.

Where to find Pro Fish:

Näytä Pro Fish suuremmalla kartalla

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Jyväskylän kesä - Jyväskylä summer

Jyväskylän kesä got off to a sunny start today.

I managed to catch one of the free performances that were offered on Kävelykatu, the pedestrian district downtown. Circo Aereo delivered an entertaining performance to a large crowd.

The Romanian beggars that migrate to Finland every summer managed to make the performance not-so-wonderful, since every few minutes I had to shoo a different one away, keeping track of my cash and camera at the same time. Aside from the distractions, I thoroughly enjoyed the acrobatic entertainment of Circo Aereo.

The Haihatus (Nonsense) art crew installed several pieces in Kirkkopuisto, the park around the downtown church. Part of the festivities included a leaf-blower orchestra and a dance-printmaking performance piece, neither of which I remembered to photograph.

I did manage to take some pics of some of the installations. Let's start with the pieces that the artists actually took some time to create, and most likely even thought about for a while.

Dinosauruksen muna - A dinosaur's egg
Kalle Turakka Purhonen

Sopeutus - Adaptation
Heikki Hämäläinen

Puu - Tree
Mauri Korhonen

Then there were the installations that just made me crabby. I guess they managed to get some reaction out of me. It just seems like the artists just put things off until the deadline and then managed to whip something up at the last minute and then give it a quirky name...

Puusta sinä olet tullut - From the tree you have come
Pekka Suomäki

Hyönteiselämää - Insect life
Outi Markkanen

I decided to put two unofficial installations into the Haihatus mix. Here are my entries.

Jyväskylän kaupunki - The City of Jyväskylä
Willie Lahti
found-object mixed-media dada sculpture

Kahvitauko - Coffee break
Willie Lahti
found-object mixed-media dada sculpture

I managed to create both of these works of public installation environmental art without the assistance of grant money or public funding. I hope you enjoy them.