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.