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The flush of Christmas and the New Year are still only a few weeks past, yet the ‘air’ feels a bit different as we count off the first weeks of 2016. We were startled with brutally cold weather here a week ago as the first moments of winter and 2016 at Vanha Talo Suomi were harsh and unkind. After experiencing a few days of ‘intermittent water availability’ due to frozen pipes, we are very glad the freakish cold weather departed and has been replaced with the more typical temperatures and snow accumulations for this time of year.

Few things are more frustrating and worrisome than discovering there isn’t any water flowing when you turn on the taps! Luckily, our situation didn’t end in a worst case scenario of busted pipes and water damage. Instead we were only temporarily inconvenienced with having either no water flowing, or only partial water to some areas, or only cold lines flowing. When the temperatures started plummeting last week quite a few locals ended up in the same boat as we were, as we discovered from reading the local Lohja city page on Facebook and from the groups of Rintamamiestalo owners throughout Finland.

How cold was it you ask?? Well pretty damn cold! Local reporting had registered -28c (with wind chill/feel factor of -38c/-40c) which translates to -18.4f (-36.4f/-40f) The usual temperatures are a balmy in comparison to what we had last week. The month of January is historically characterized by gradually falling daily high temperatures, with daily highs ranging from -2°C to -4°C over the course of the month, exceeding 4°C or dropping below -12°C only one day in ten.  Daily low temperatures range from -9°C to -6°C, falling below -20°C or exceeding 1°C only one day in ten. You can learn more about our crazy Finnish weather here.

A couple days ago this was the scene…snow scene from our deck


Besides the worry and concern for the plumbing, I was understandably a bit nervous about how the plants and trees we planted last year would be fairing in the severe cold, especially since we didn’t have significant snow accumulation to offer any insulation and protection. Gardening is a waiting game – whether or not we’ve got casualties is something we won’t know for a few more months. I can only hope we got lucky and everything managed to come through unscathed. Trust me, we aren’t only in our concern. Lohja is famous for its apple production and there are countless other gardeners all holding their breath until springtime.

Speaking of gardening, maybe you’ve wondered what ‘hardiness zone’ our gardens are in. Or maybe not!  But for the curious I hope this information is helpful, it might even be helpful for our Finnish friends to see how our gardening climate compares to parts of the United States. 🙂

The United States Department of Agriculture. The USDA offers is chart online for American gardeners as an indicator as to which plants will grow and thrive in a specific climatic location. The US chart is here.  For me, finding an English language explanation of Finnish hardiness zones proved difficult. But there is a hardiness chart based from the same USDA data for Finland by PlantMaps.  A Finnish hardiness chart looks like this one which happens to be in Swedish which I found on Blomqvist Plantskola :


Uusimaa is a region located in southern Finland, and is situated within portions of the light yellow-green colors at the very bottom of the picture above. Helsingfors is Swedish for Helsinki.  Helsinki is east of Lohja. Lohja is a large municipality and covers portions within zone areas Ib and II according to the diagram.  A quick look at the wiki link above you can learn more about Lohja/Lojo as well as see another diagram of the entire country which shows the regions instead of planting zones. Helpful if you want better clarification about Uusimaa or any other Finnish region.  By the way, Finland is an official two-language country -Swedish and Finnish. Depending on the concentration of either nationality in the area -street signs, naming, etc are depicted with either the Finnish language first or the Swedish language first.

The living room stove has been working through the cord of wood Pekka bought in October, and we’ve staying very cozy and warm which is a great departure from last year. I don’t have any nostalgic feelings for, or want to relive the outhouse or sauna shower in winter!

We’ve also been busy acquiring a few items to fill our nest! Last night we drove over an hour away to Mäntsälä to look at a very special antique trunk that had caught my eye. After seeing it online, I really wanted to see it in person. Pekka is so wonderful! He hitched up the trailer and off we went in snowing and windy conditions.  The trunk was as gorgeous in person as I had hoped so I told the owner right away I wanted it. There were additional items on offer including a few that hadn’t been advertised yet. We really liked one of these too and added it to our haul. A trunk/chest in Finnish is called an Arkku.  Here is the one we brought home.

It’s either of Swedish or German origin and is solid oak (tammi.) All the hardware, handles, lock and key are original. I think it’s stunning!  We managed to load both pieces all by ourselves into and out of the trailer and into the house. The chest was much easier since it had wonderfully large handles on either end. Easy-Peasy.  The desk/dresser which is called klaffilipasto in Finnish is a rich dark mahogany. I took out all the drawers this morning to make it easier for me and Pekka to carry up the stairs when he gets home tonight. While taking them out, I found a torn fragment of paper which would seem to be again either Swedish or German.I’ll post a photo of the desk once we lug it upstairs and get it into place in our bedroom.


The desk/dresser (klaffilipasto) made it upstairs and is looking handsome in our new bedroom. The wall color might look different in here 😉 We started with the Gorgonzola, decided to swap it out for a blue color, which I decided later still not right. I like this creamy beige, it is warm with slight hint of pink.

As for other bedrooms, the guest room is nearly done. Still have the trim to pick up, paint and install for the windows, door and baseboard…maybe even the crown, since we have it on ceilings throughout downstairs except the bathroom.

I’ve been getting prints framed locally and a few are hanging now in this new space. The paint is Tikkurila and color is called Gorgonzola

I chose Italian and Swiss lakes as the theme for the artwork; Lake Como, Lake Garda and Lake Lugano are depicted in the four prints in this room (one out of view)  I hope whatever guests sleep in this room eventually will enjoy the view!

Pekka has started nailing up the ceiling boards upstairs in the area, opposite his office space. Actually, he’s almost done nailing the tongue and groove wood planks in place. Next they’ll all be stained the same color as the master bedroom – a golden maple color.

I guess once that’s finished, we can figure out the scheme for cutting down or fashioning some DIY doors for the two attic storage “cubbies” that flank either end of the original insulated bedroom upstairs.  Then we’ve got to get some electric in that old bedroom…and some new walls and ceilings!

We hope your 2016 got off to a good start. Stay bundled cozy and warm.

Until next time!