An Easter visit to the farm

Let me start off by saying that this post is somewhat of an afterthought. Only afterward did I realize that I should have taken a lot more pictures of a lot more things, but I was enjoying myself too much and just didn’t think about it. 🙂

We drove to the Woodwife’s grandparents’ house on Saturday morning. They live on a small working farm of about 120 acres/48 hectares, of which maybe 25 acres/10 hectares (just a guess) are cleared for farming, yard etc. and the rest are wooded. After visiting for a bit, we headed down to the frozen stream at the edge of the property. My grandfather-in-law recently built an aspen-log “savusauna” or smoke sauna in the same spot as the one he was born in long ago. Nearby, he erected a “hulju” or “palju”, which is an outdoor bathtub heated by a wood-burning stove.

They asked me to build a fire in a filled-up well shaft so we could roast some sausages, so I brought some wood over from the barn with a small toboggan and started splitting some of the smaller stuff with my knife. The Woodsboy supervised and lent a hand.

When my grandfather-in-law saw me splitting wood with my knife, he went to the barn and then brought back a hatchet for me. I’m sure when he saw me batoning the wood, he was thinking to himself, “Why the heck is he banging on his knife like that?” When he handed me the hatchet, I said thanks, and then he looked behind me and saw that the fire was already fully blazing by that point. 😀

My father-in-law cleared some snow away from the well shaft and laid down a long pad to sit on while we roasted the sausages.

Meanwhile, my grandfather-in-law uncovered, filled and fired up the bathtub.

My grandmother-in-law started heating the smoke sauna at this time. A smoke sauna is different from a standard sauna in an important way. Standard saunas have a “kiuas”, which is a wood-burning stove with what is essentially an open metal bin of rocks on top of it. Smoke saunas, on the other hand, have a brick or stone structure which holds rocks on top and allows a wood fire to be built underneath. This structure kind of looks like a dog house, with rocks where the roof would be and a “doorway” where the wood is loaded. A fire is kept burning under the rocks for a long period. While the fire is burning, the smoke is allowed to fill the sauna, which blackens the walls over time. This gives it an interesting smell and look. A small opening toward the top of the sauna lets the smoke out. When the rocks are sufficiently hot, the fire is allowed to die down. To use the sauna, you simply sit around on the benches and throw water on the heated rocks with a straight-handled ladle/dipper/water scoop type thing. The water is converted instantly into steam and believe me, it feels great on the skin. Apparently, the smoke sauna is the original way that saunas were made in Finland, which actually makes sense. The more modern saunas with metal wood-burning stoves came later.

While waiting for the bathtub and sauna to heat up, we ate the sausages, sandwiches, cake, “riisipiirakka” (a small pastry with a rye shell and rice filling) and a few other tasty treats and also drank coffee. It was a nice family affair.

While the first round of sauna-goers were enjoying a steam bath (and then relaxing in the bathtub, and then back to the sauna, and so on), the Woodswife and I decided it was time for me to try skiing again. I tried skiing once before, about 7 years ago, and let’s just say I didn’t fall in love with it. Now that I have two winters’ worth of snowshoeing experience under my belt and am familiar with long/bulky things attached to my feet, I thought it might be easier to ski at this point, and I was right. I used a pair of vintage forest skis and old poles, and I’m “happy” to say I only fell about three or four times, and the soreness is mostly gone now. 🙂 I wish I had taken a picture of the old wooden skis, but I didn’t think about it at the time. Here’s the Woodswife on this beautiful afternoon.

And a few more shots of the areas we went skiing and snowmobiling in.

After skiing, going to the sauna and showering, we ate a delicious Easter dinner and sat around and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Not a bad way to spend part of the Easter weekend!

By the way, in case anyone is wondering, the snow is still about knee-deep out in the country. I expect most of it to be gone in 2 – 3 weeks.


14 comments on “An Easter visit to the farm

  1. Marm :):) says:

    Great post!!!! What a beautiful day you all had. Nice to see everyone again. The outdoors bath tub looks really enjoyable. Woodsboy looks like he had a great time and I’m sure was a big help :):)

  2. Ron says:

    Love your post…. just love it!
    The battoning- and skiingparts made me smile. I can hear the old man think…..
    Everyone just keeps saying that saunas are wonderfull, yet I disagree. I myself do not feel comfortable in a sauna. The heat is unbearable to me and actually hurst my skin. Don’t like the steamything, either…
    That tub…. that’s something different. If not too hot, it is highly enjoyable…

    Those oldtimers have plenty knowledge and I will be joining quite a few local ones very soon in the local hembygdsförening. I really hope they want to teach me their skills…

    • Thanks, Ron!

      Well, the sauna is not for everyone. It certainly is a different experience if you’re not used to it.

      I’m very fortunate to have lots of experienced people around here to learn from! 🙂

  3. kermiitintarinat says:

    I think 98% who live in Finland loves the sauna :D. Especially smoke sauna has very soft heat, very different than electric saunas.

    It has made me laugh many times when I have heard that Swedish invented the sauna and still in many places in Sweden they don’t know that you have to put rocks to kiuas :D. Same was last summer in Norway when I was staying at Voss. In our tavern, was nice sauna but the kiuas was broken. I said to the tavern owners that kiuas will last longer if you put rocks in it.

    • Thanks for the comments!

      A hot sauna on a cold day is a great feeling, in my opinion, and the smoke sauna is something special, in itself.

      I didn’t know those “sauna facts” about other countries. It sounds like they need some Finns to go over there and show them how to do it right! 😉

      “I said to the tavern owners that kiuas will last longer if you put rocks in it.” <— HAHAHA! 😀

  4. Finnman says:

    Smoke sauna is something I rare can enjoy, but when I can I will take all from it. It´s heaven!!

    Nice trip you had there and good to hear that you did something very “finnish” there like skiing, bathing in SMOKE sauna etc. You should dip yourself in icy water (avanto in finnish) or atleast snow to make it perfect 🙂

    • It is heavenly, isn’t it. 🙂 I consider myself very lucky to be able to go there several times a year.

      I have to admit, I do love “Finnish activities”. 😉 I should say that I have actually rolled around in the snow after having a sauna (my first sauna ever, actually). It was great. I haven’t gone in icy water yet, though. Maybe sometime in the future…

  5. Chris Major says:

    An absolutely wonderful account of what looked like a magical day, with only about three days worth of snow to enjoy here in the past year, I feel like I’m from another planet!

    • Thanks, Chris!

      The day really was very enjoyable and relaxing!

      I have often remarked that the north, maybe unlike anywhere else on Earth, really is like two different worlds in summer versus winter. It looks different, feels different etc. It’s very nice to have such extreme differences, at least to me. Keeps things interesting!

      • Ron says:

        Not just that, but we still have real seasons here, which makes us live more in tune with nature, too, giving our mind and bodies a natural cycle in the year.
        As for the saunas; I strongly dispise heat and warmth in general. Makes me feel really uncomfortable and I guess the smoke and watervapour trigger my slighty claustrofobic nature. Which really is a shame, since I would like to enjoy a proper FINNISH sauna experience….

        • Good point, Ron. I think the changing seasons do force us to be a bit more in tune with nature. Of course, I don’t have to be “forced” personally. 😉

          What’s interesting is that I don’t really like hot climates, like sub-tropical areas, deserts, etc. because I sweat a lot and feel uncomfortable. It’s one of the reasons why I love the north. But somehow to me the sauna is different from hot climates.

          If you ever make your way out here to Finland, Ron, you can try a real smoke sauna with us. The heat is not harsh like with electric sauna stoves, and the sauna room itself is pretty big. It might be different enough from what you have tried that it might be enjoyable to you!

  6. Sticks65 says:

    looks like you all had a great time,wish i could have been there.

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