After living in US for more than two decades, what attracted me to Finland is the way of life I saw. It’s not the free education or free medical or pension after retirement but the way of life I watched my in-laws have. I so wanted Manu to grow up with that in his veins. Granted I moved back to Bay area for reasons not needed to be elaborated here for a few years but when he asked last year if we can move back to Finland because he feels he fits in here and wants to be close to family, we didn’t hesitate. We would not have dared to make yet another major change for him but when he chose this life, we wanted him to embrace it.
My in-laws live in a rural town in mid-Finland. They are farmers and the most hardworking yet have time for you at any time kinda couple:) . I have a great deal of admiration for them and constantly get inspired by them. I would love to write more about what inspires me about them but first need to get their permission so that has to wait. Our first visit together as a family was about a dozen years ago in Summer. I still love Finland in summers and don’t get the urge to travel or go anywhere else in summer. It’s just soo beautiful. Even just going for a drive, you see vast fields alternated by forests and/or lakes.
That summer, I experienced picking strawberries enough to freeze. I experienced going into forest to pick blueberries (and come out with mosquito bites too). Experienced fishing and eating the freshest possible fish! I remember attempting to chop wood (and fail miserably) but loving the concept of preparing for the winter. I remember eating the freshest potatoes ever possible (dig them up, clean, cook and eat). These are experiences I didn’t have in India or US (Fresh vegetables yes, but never grew or even seen a potato plant till that visit).
We moved for that concept of life but I was still too young and too many aspirations. BUT, I still did enjoy the way of life, picked berries and learnt to make everything at home including juices, jams etc. etc. Even after moving back to Bay area in 2011, I continued that path. Since I continued to be a stay-at-home mom, it was better for our and our financial health to make stuff at home and even early on, Manu did catch that fever. I remember all his birthday parties I had to plan, do everything at home including the goody bag gifts:) . So, last year when we again decided to move back again, it was definitely easier to fall into the rhythm.
As the birch trees are telling us, it’s Autumn here which means time to pick lingonberries. I remember trying to grow them in California, of course with no luck. I was surprised they even sold plants (which even said they are from Finland!!!) but had to try of course. This weekend we spent picking lingonberries in the forest. It rained on Saturday which made it slightly harder to pick but still managed half a bucket. For me, it’s one of those things that are almost therapeutical. We took our dogs as well for multiple trips and they loved being in the forest especially because they don’t have to be on the leash this time of the year but stayed within a whistle call distance from us. We even found a small cave/den possibly for a bear to hibernate!
There’s something serene about walking in the forest’s uneven ground (with rubber boots of course), looking for those beautiful clumps of berries. Picking them with the picker and wondering if one of the family members who are also in the same forest found a better spot than you are currently at because, lets admit it, it becomes a sort of competition to see who will pick more. I have to admit, I am the least efficient picker, not only because of my lack of experience but I also get distracted by a funny mushroom here or light falling on the berries there so I have to take a picture, or because of my numerous hilarious slips and falls and sometimes try to pick that one juicy berry and tip over more berries from the picker that I already picked. Inspite of all that, we managed to pick two big buckets (15 liters each) and my FIL, being the sweetheart he is, sent us home with the bucket of berries he picked as well saying they still have plenty of time to pick more.
While picking the berries I remembered something I could have mentioned during the blueberry post. I remember Marko telling me and we still follow it (of course).. You don’t pick every berry from a plant. You pick most of them but always leave some on the plants…So, birds will have something to eat, promotes birds to stay in the forest and maybe even bears:)(well, why would they stay there if there is no food to be found). Apart from that reason, I also like leaving some because after the winter is done, and the snow melts, walking the in the forest and finding a few berries to pick or eat is an experience by itself. The lingonberries (and cranberries) turn quite sweet during the freeze.
Lingonberries always has been a favorite of my son. Even while living in California where we couldn’t find lingonberries, a trip to IKEA always resulted in at least half a dozen of lingonberry jams and a case of lingonberry juice. This year, however, I will be doing the jam and juices so my work is cut out for me for this week. As I am writing this, I am in the middle of cleaning the lingonberries as we managed to get more stuff to be cleaned than we did with blueberries….
Oh! since it was cold there weren’t mosquitoes but a few Moose flies did get into my hair that I was finding them a few hours after we came back….life of a berry picker:)