Good things come to those who wait…and remember to water their plants. We had a successful first harvest and we definitely accomplished something with this gardening project. The flower and herb garden attracted a whole lot of insects which was very exciting to watch even though some of the plants suffered a bit – the salvia bush seems to have been pretty tasty for someone as several leaves had holes in them.
The gardening project has also been beneficial to the environment. First we have noticed an increase in insect activity. Pollinators have been busy with the flowers and spiders have enjoyed spinning their webs amongst the plants. It even attracted hares and deer who ate up all the parsley in the fall, they must have been pretty hungry.
Other than that, we did not encounter any major challenges with the growing. Actually, thats not true. We had tomatoes and zucchini growing in individual pots and despite our best efforts, the zucchini ended up not doing so great.
Maybe we didn’t fertilise it enough, maybe the stalks ended up ‘strangling’ the zucchini. Either way, we did not manage to grow many zucchini and the ones that did grow were small and hard. Maybe next year? I doubt it. The tomatoes on the other hand came out really well!
The highlight though (at least for me) were the herbs. They thrived in our garden and as a result, we were able to cook meals with fresh homegrown herbs. We had thyme, lemon thyme, salvia, parsley, rosemary and mint. A lot of mint. The parsley bush was huge but almost disappeared overnight in the fall when a desperately hungry creature came and ate most of it. We had thought the taste would be too powerful but apparently not!
For the next grow, we are discussing a larger garden for more herbs and less vegetables. Jenny wants to try growing potatoes and carrots and I would like to try growing spinach, oregano and garlic. The tomatoes and zucchini were fun to try but in my opinion were not worth the amount of time and effort. Either way, we will be more prepared and better with the next gardening project after having learnt a whole lot from this one.
The garden was one of our most talked about ideas when we were planning for cabin life. The idea was to grow a 50/50 mix of herbs and vegetables to get a feel for gardening. It would be our first real project together! We agreed on the following criteria – we would grow vegetables, herbs and flowers that would last one year. We obviously had a tonne of questions but the main ones were:
How do we keep away hungry creatures from eating everything?
How often do we need to water the garden?
What about fertilising?
What do we need to get started?
Supplies were relatively easy to procure. Planks used for the herb garden were leftovers from a build project, rocks were collected from the beach and plastic pots were found at a nearby trash station. We had to find soil and plants. Soil was 99% horse poop from Jenny’s grandmother (tack Kickan!) who has a fantastic garden herself and we added some kelp fertiliser from our beach to the mix. We also ended up purchasing a few sacks of garden soil and mixed that in with the horse manure and kelp. As for water, we reserved a barrel of rainwater for the garden which was perfect.
The build was relatively straightforward and hastily done. The important thing was that it would hold its contents! We had thought about covering the box with netting to deter the animals from eating the plants but ultimately decided to leave it as is.
Alot of research was done on what plants we wanted to try growing and we decided to focus on a deer and rabbit resistant selection of herbs as well as flowers. One of the gardeners at the greenhouse gave us a bag of untreated sheep’s wool to try out as a deer deterrent and funnily enough, it worked…until late autumn when the parsley bush mysteriously dwindled in size overnight! We presume the wool has a very powerful smell that deters other animals. Whatever it does, it works and we will be using it next year again for sure.
The final selection of herbs included thyme, lemon thyme, rosemary, parsley and mint. The flowers were a mix of colours and shapes and we even managed to transplant some wild strawberry plants and orpines.
Funnily enough, the day we built the garden was the same day that we had our first proper encounter with our garden’s biggest threat: the deer! Perhaps it was curious about the garden (and future food possibilities) or perhaps it was passing through the neighbourhood…either way, we had never seen it this close before and it didn’t appear to be very nervous with our presence. Lets see how it goes…
Self-sustainability is something we dream of achieving. Being able to produce enough food for ourselves would be an incredible accomplishment but before we start a farm, we need to learn how to grow a crop. Potatoes are an essential crop in Europe and especially Finland because of their ability to grow in cooler climates so we decided to grow some. They are also relatively easy to grow – we simply planted our spuds and let them do their thing! Perfect for beginners like us.
We had an old concrete ring on the beach that (if memory serves me well) was a leftover piece of well shaft. It was perfect for our potato garden. We started by emptying the ring of its contents and found a gas lighter as well as a smashed beer bottle mixed in with the soil. This was an unexpected find and we are lucky to have been wearing protective gloves because that glass was sharp and we found shards everywhere. The ring was then filled in with our mix that was sand and soil with a nice top layer of kelp. Next time we might try growing potatoes in straw!
Once that was done, we watered the soil properly and placed seed potatoes in shallow holes which were then covered up. I think we placed seven potatoes but in future grows we could definitely fit more.
As the summer progressed, so did the potatoes’ growth. We had neglected them quite a bit but I think thats mainly because they were placed in an area that we rarely visited and we were also quite confident that they would be fine on their own – we’ve seen potatoes grow in our compost bin without any help from us! As temperatures began to lower, we decided it was time to go see how the crop was. The leaves had drooped and wilted which was a sign that these potatoes needed to be harvested so Jenny started poking around the soil which was now covered in pine cones and needles from the nearby pine trees. One by one the taters started showing up and we managed to get quite a few! They weren’t very big but we harvested enough to last us 4-5 meals which was pretty good considering we planted seven potatoes. However, if we ever plan to achieve self-sustainability (even for just one year), we will need to improve our yields by expanding our potato garden quite considerably.
It was a fun experience to have and honestly not that difficult or demanding. Our biggest concern was the very dry summer when we had limited rain water but the potatoes were resilient and managed to survive. We also didn’t seem to have any hungry animals that were interested in eating the potatoes but that might have to do with how well hidden the grow was. Next spring we will try again but with a larger yield in mind!
We visited Teijo national park and did a hike on a surprisingly warm day in september. There were a lot of mushrooms growing meaning I could try some ‘near-macro photography’ with my telephoto lens. These are my favourite photos from that day and buying a proper macro lens next would be great- the small details in nature can be as eye catching as the big ones and I feel thats worth documenting with my camera.
Anyways I know nothing about mushrooms so leave a comment if you can recognise any of these (samma på svenska). All I know is not to eat the RED ones.
Jag bestämde mig för att ge vinbärsbuskarna här på lande lite kärlek. De var nästan helt uppätna av en vintergröna som tagit sig lite väl mycket frihet. Svarta vinbären hade försökt fly in mot en närliggande rhododendronbuske. Ingen ordning alltså. Jag vet egentligen inte särskilt mycket om vinbärsbuskar, men jag tycker det är roligt med trädgård och tycker det är roligt att pyssla om sådant som växer här.
Nu snyggade jag till buskarna lite grann. Jag tog bort grenar som var döda och sådana som helt hade vuxit åt konstigt håll och sedan gjorde vi tillsammans en “lite cowboy” (som Chris brukar säga när vi kanske inte har 100 % planerat hur det ska bli till slut) ställning för att hålla grenarna upprätt.
De grenar som levde men växte åt konstigt håll tog jag tillvara. Jag hoppas de ska få nytt liv. Jag klippte dem så de blev 10-15 cm och satte ner dem i några krukor. Nu hoppas jag på att de får rötter. När det blir kallt tänker jag gräva ner dem i en pallkrage med kruka och allt och täcka med löv. Där får de lov att överleva tills våren kommer. Eller så dör de, men då har de i alla fall fått en chans och det förtjänar alla.
“People love chopping wood. In this activity one immediately sees results.”
Earlier this summer we found four pine trees that we could cut down for firewood. We waited until the weather got a bit colder as its more pleasant to work in a cooler temperature and we don’t have to worry about the bugs. Firewood is an important source of heat and comfort during the colder months in Finland so it shouldn’t be a surprise that we need a decent amount of it to stay warm, especially for the sauna! The problem is that its a long process…but a necessary one.
I decided to test the chainsaw on a smaller tree to see how sharp the chain is and to make sure the chainsaw was working properly. Two thumbs up for well maintained forest machinery!
First off, the tree has to come down. We need to keep an eye on wind direction as a tree is tall and if it is severed at the trunk, a gust of wind could make it fall in the wrong direction. We also need to plan in which direction to let the tree fall. To do that, we use a method with the chainsaw where you cut a wedge out of the trunk and then chainsaw from the other side. Once the tree begins to fall, it will naturally fall in the wedge’s direction. Thats the idea anyway!
Once the tree is down, branches need to be cut off before the trunk can be sawn into smaller logs for transport. The branches that are too small to use as firewood or kindling are put in a bonfire pile (‘kokko’) to burn later. The rest of the wood is repurposed as firewood.
The last step is to chop the firewoods into smaller pieces and rack them with the bark facing down so that they can dry. The chopping part is the best part because you get immediate results of your labour and theres a sense of accomplishment every time that axe splits a piece of wood!
We spent a few hours working before ending the day with sauna and ice cold beer. Tomorrow we will probably feel a bit sore as chopping down trees can be quite a workout! There is still work to be done and the wood needs to be in dry storage for the winter but we will do that another day.