aurora borealis, Autumn, clear-cutting, crazy Finnish weather, dahlia, digging, DIY, Drywall finishing, fencing, gas-powered chipper, gladiola, Jack Frost, Jani Virolainen, Jimi Österberg, mulching, porch, Revontulia, rintamiestalo, suomi, transplanting
Happens every year, to every gardener – well nearly everyone outside the tropics – the dreaded visit by Jack Frost. He arrived here Tuesday evening, settling in for the night and staying throughout the pre-dawn hours of early Wednesday morning. My vain attempts to thwart his affects were no match for the insidious destruction he left in his wake.
Only hours before his arrival, the bold and cheery colors of assorted dahlias were ablaze in all their glory; abuzz with bumble bees and the occasional butterfly.
The lofty blooms of crimson, violet, and sunny yellow held securely on stout stems. The dahlias were defenseless despite being covered, and all succumbed to the chilling night air. By morning they had been reduced to withered heaps -the bright and sunny blooms now crumpled mushy –dead.
Not only was I devastated to discover the remains of my garden laying in ruins, I was taken aback when I spotted a couple men carrying guns tromping around just the other side of our property. I confronted them only to learn that they were searching for a deer that had just been hit by a car and had run towards our yard. Only 30 minutes beforehand I sat watching one of the yearlings chomping the remains of the farmer’s soybean harvest. I watched it for a good twenty minutes, neither of us realizing it would be the last time. Another biter disappointment – by now I was completely gutted and for the next two days very depressed.
The grass is crystallized and crunches when you step on it. The leaves are falling more carelessly now too, tumbling almost, from the branches into a thin blanket covering the ground. The leaves still attached, are clenched to the branches- as if to withstand the chill, but only if the wind doesn’t blow and coax them into giving up. The sun is blazing in its lowered angle on the horizon. The skies are dazzling blue but the cold night air definitely has a grip on the overall daytime temperature.
Luckily, I thought to cut the gladiolas in bloom and a few of the dahlias and got them into vases inside the house Tuesday afternoon. Had I realized everything else would be ruined despite being covered, I definitely would have selected other dahlias instead of only the white ones I brought inside. The white ones were too big to fit under the sheeting without being damaged –HA …damaged vs completely ruined…now I know.
Autumn arrived with Jack Frost Tuesday night, but we knew he’d show up eventually. In preparation we have been finalizing a few dramatic landscape alterations.
In late August and early September we began to address the fencing situation for the areas bordering our property. The somewhat sturdy, but obviously inadequate old chain-link fencing was no match for high-stepping deer who had munched through the garden beds on a few occasions earlier in the summer.
Once committed to changing the fence out, the next hurdle was addressing the unmanaged growth on the other side of the fence. It had obviously been years since anyone had done a proper cut-back of the vegetation. Aside from viable specimen trees, there were endless clumps of saplings that had turned into massive nearly mature trees. All of them were crowded together to the point that larger ones were only suffocating smaller ones and eventually the cycle just repeated. It was a mess. Most important to us was clearing away the vegetation that had already encroached on our side, or had grown into the chain-link or was going to if not trimmed back.
It took us a week and a half to cut and thin two sides of the property border, hauling all the debris into piles for later chipping. Once we got the back side clear, we took down the chain-link and put up the same 2M wire fencing we’d previously used on another section along the farmer’s field. We used up all we had on hand and Pekka ordered a few more rolls. While we waited for the fence shipment to arrive we fired up the chipper and started clearing the debris. Another couple weeks spent chipping and hauling mulch around the garden.
Luckily even through the final weeks of September our crazy Finnish weather was excellent, even warm. We were able to get a lot accomplished around the yard. Once we chipped up the last branches we created a small semi-circle bed and planted in a few items we picked up from the local nursery. Their end of season sale at 70% off was a bit too tempting so we snagged some lovely shrubbery; Diervilla ses. ‘Cool Splash’ and Syringa ‘Reflexa’ which should look especially nice together. I also found time to tuck in 250+ additional bulbs, tubers, and rhizomes throughout the established beds. I added more foxtail lilies, tulips, Asiatic lilies, and iris and introduced three new allium varieties, along with Camassia and Ornithogalum which I think will perform nicely and round-out a great display. Proof is in the pudding!
After getting the new fence up, the next item on our agenda was digging up and transplanting berry bushes to a new area on the property. Since the farthest corner is of odd shape and location, and is under-used we thought it a good place to centralize our abundant berry bush collection. The added bonus of having all the bushes in one place is the re-acquisition of our primary landscape for enjoyment and possibly some other purpose (garden bed, garden bed, garden bed).
All the bushes we transplanted were quite mature and only time will tell if they will manage better in their new location. Come spring pruning, things should be sorted out. We have no shortage of black, white and red currants and have so far relocated nearly 20 bushes, with another eight or so that will make the move next spring. Their departure really opens up the view among the apple trees. All these bushes had been previously planted up on earth mounds which created an awkward alley of berry bush hills on the backside of the apple trees. It was a real pain in the butt to mow! Pekka has done a lot of leveling already, but more still to do to fill in the low spots and to reduce the mounds. Too late for grass seed this year, but it won’t take long to green these patches up next year.
And also since our last posting, Pekka got some last-minute insulating finished on the porch undersides. The porch isn’t currently heated, although it’s wired for a radiator that will eventually be installed. We don’t use our porch for much of anything, and actually it’s more of a catchall for everything that is going inside or going outside, but hasn’t made it that far yet. During the wintertime, a porch like this is convenient for minimizing the cold drafts that occur every time someone enters or leaves the house.
Some rintamiestalo’s have really ample porches large enough for tables, chairs and I’ve even seen them used as a summer bedroom. Our porch is unfortunately pretty small and functions really as a walk-in vestibule of sorts. Sure jackets and boots can all be deposited here and that’s about all. Someday the ceiling will get put up and the walls will get stained, and the windows will finally get washed, oh and the floorboards sanded and repainted. J
The laundry room and spare bedroom downstairs have had some attention too. Dry-wall finishing is still underway but it’s a very slow process. I don’t think we’ll get very much further along this month since we are on holiday to the U.S. next week. Since we didn’t get these areas finished before cold weather set in, it means we’re still using the well pump for water to the old sauna building where the washing machine is hooked up. And soon we’ll have to have the heater on now to protect the pump and line from freezing.
For the last few months I’ve been planning and organizing a surprise 80th birthday party for my dad who lives in Michigan. I’ll tell you, it’s pretty hard to plan a party when you live 3000+ miles away in another country!! Luckily, a couple of family friends graciously assisted in preparing guest lists, offering ideas, and getting the word out to old friends and colleagues of my dad in town.
I’ve sent countless emails, written letters to the senior family relations who don’t use computers, and even skyped to get invitations to everyone. It’s been a bit exhausting! Fortunately my dad is affiliated with a fraternal order and they were a first stop/one-stop call in securing a reception room. Deciding on a luncheon menu was a bit tricky, but DONE! I’m looking forward to seeing everyone next weekend!!
October will be nearly over by the time we return. The cold weather will be a fixture to contend with as will the shortened sunlight hours. There have been some spectacular aurora borealis (Revontulia) sightings across Finland; I leave you with some of the finest examples from local photographers Jimi Österberg and Jani Virolainen and Jesse Kaunulainen. Enjoy!