Tag Archives: summer house

Still waiting for fish

While the rest of the European continent has been basking in very hot temperatures, Finland has experienced very cold weather. Some weeks ago the summer 2015 was the coldest summer since 1987, but according to the latest statistics we are now talking about the coldest summer since the sixties… and the summer is not over yet!

Getting ready to throw cast nets into the lake

Getting ready to throw cast nets into the lake.

Gone fishing

Gone fishing.

To us staying at the summer house this has meant practically no fish. One week ago on Saturday my father was advised by a local fisherman that now may be time to start cast net fishing. According to the fisherman the wind was changing and should result in better catches. So, off my father went to drop the nets into the lake, but one week later we are still waiting for the big catch. The weather has been very strange and fish are definitely acting weirdly too. Fishing at midnight is only a beautiful memory. No fresh fish at our dining table this summer.

The rain comes

Life at the summer house can pretty much be summarized in two words: nature observation.

The rain comes when the sky gets dark blue, grey and pink.

As the sky gets dark blue, grey and pink, the rain comes.

Finnish lake at 10 o’clock in the evening!

Isn’t this the most beautiful lake view ever? The photo taken at Lake Lappajärvi, in the western part of Finland tonight at 10 o’clock! And the sun is still above the horizon….

Would you believe this photo was taken at 10 o'clock in the evening?

Would you believe this photo was taken at 10 o’clock in the evening?

Arrival at the summer house

It has been almost one week since I arrived at the summer house in Finland. The routine kicked in fast. The wake-up between 9 and 11 o’clock, porridge with berries while watching the lake view, walking the baby in the woods (she seems very impressed by the surrounding tall pines and spruces), cooking lunch, cutting wood, observing birds, arranging the boat garage, heating up the sauna and preparing dinner (often Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal after sauna).

I usually go to sauna around 9 o’clock in the evening, after putting my daughter to sleep, and return to the kitchen to cook while my parents have their turn at the sauna. The weather hasn’t been warm enough for drinking rosé wine at terrace but we have enjoyed red wine from Luberon and biodynamic red from Languedoc-Roussillon (Domaine Cazes, Cuvée Marie Gabrielle 2011). Life is sweet here and will only get sweeter when my husband arrives some time next time.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

No need to look further for peace and calm. Finnish lake scenery at its best.

It is 7 o’clock in the evening as I am typing this. Time to cut wood and heat up the sauna!

PS I will be here for several weeks, so stay tuned for more stories about the life at the Finnish summer house!

Lastly, Pearlspotting is on Facebook and on Instagram. If you prefer Twitter, you can find me here @Miia_Niskanen

See you soon!

November equals vendace in Finland

Even if November in Finland is considered by many the darkest thus depressing month of the year, it represents exciting times for those who love fishing. This is when a small lake fish called vendace approaches the shore to lay eggs, making it easy to catch it by nets.

In the western part of Finland where our summer house is located the vendace season usually begins around All Saints’ Day. Depending on the weather (how fast the lake freezes) the season lasts from one week to one month.  As this fall has been exceptionally warm, the season has had a rough start, resulting in less fish with less eggs. During a typical season, every other fish caught has eggs inside, whereas this November only one in ten has had eggs!

Fishing in Finland in November represents a delicate balance between nature and man.

Fishing in Finland in November represents a delicate balance between nature and man. Photo credit: Juho Niskanen

Catching the vendace is hard work. The nets need to be dropped in the lake in the late afternoon as the vendace approaches shallow waters after the sunset (remember that at this time of the year it gets dark before 4 p.m.). Those fish that are not trapped in the nets lay the eggs and leave for deeper waters after the midnight and at the crack of dawn the harvest can be collected. Careful weather observation is required because if the temperature rapidly falls at night, the lake starts freezing, making collecting nets impossible or at least difficult!

The vendace movements are not very well researched, but locals like my father who have been fishing for decades in the same place know their rhythm. By observing the weather, the lake and how it starts freezing they know more or less when the time is right to throw the nets to the lake. Despite the rather odd weather this fall (temperature fluctuation from below zero to 15 Celsius!) our summer house freezer is home to some one hundred or so vendace…

PS You may remember my post from last summer Grilled vendace: a typical Finnish meal after sauna? It is possible to catch vendace during the summer, too, but one requires special nets and needs to go farther away, to deeper waters. Naturally, the fish caught does not contain eggs.

The Summer House: Ten Days and Still Nostalgic

It has already been ten days since I returned to Paris but I am still nostalgic about Finland and the summer house. It feels that everyone I know is having the most amazing time by lake or sea, enjoying the heat wave and temperatures hovering around 30C, and I am “just in Paris”. It has upset me to receive text messages from my father saying that our lake (that is big and deep!) measures 27C. That is the usual temperature of the Mediterranean and not a lake half way between Helsinki and Lapland…!

So, now that you are convinced that weather-wise Finland is the new Côte d’Azur, you must be wondering what it is that makes me so nostalgic. Well, this is the list upon which I have been pondering. The accent will be on the summer house because this is where I spend my time when in Finland in summer.

When you get lucky with weather, this is what a Finnish lake looks like. Lovely, isn't it?

When you get lucky with weather, this is what a Finnish lake looks like. Lovely, isn’t it?

1. The most peaceful place on the planet

A Finnish summer house is probably the most calm and peaceful place on this planet if we ignore the poles, some Pacific islands and Greenland of course. The life revolves around breakfast, checking fishing nets, swimming, reading magazines, wood cutting, lunch, siesta, raking leaves, wood cutting (again), heating the sauna, preparing dinner, checking the nets (again), sauna, swimming and dinner. The daily life follows a routine, but a fun routine that calms even the most agitated urban dweller (like a Parisian!). In my book, the summer house is comparable to yoga retreats.

Life is sweet. My husband and my mother reading design magazines by our private beach.

Life is sweet. My husband and my mother reading design magazines on our private beach.

My father catching our daily staple.  Only us, the boat, the nets and some seagulls waiting to see if there is anything for them.

My father catching our daily staple (fish, you guessed right).
Only us, the boat, the nets and some seagulls waiting to see if there is anything for them.

2. Privacy

Summer houses, in most cases, come with a private beach. Our beach is relatively small, but it is ours. In addition to us, only birds use it sometimes.

We have some neighbors to the left side but to the right there are only willows. But even in more populated areas of Finland there never are too many people –after all there are only 18 inhabitants per square kilometer in Finland (for example, the UK has 265!).

A big lake just for you. Not many people around.

A big lake just for you. Not many people around.

Sometimes if we want even more privacy, we take the boat and visit one of the many islands of the lake to play Robinson Crusoe!

Island hopping. No parking fees, no traffic jam. In fact, nobody Still, nobody else around!

Island hopping. No parking fee, no traffic jam. In fact, nobody else around!

3. The nature

If you get tired of the lake, there is always forest nearby. We have some behind the summer house.

My mother says that there is nothing as beautiful as the Finnish forest, especially after rain, and I sort of have to agree with her. It is a different kind of beauty, the beauty I grew up with, so it is only natural I find it comforting… But who wouldn’t feel rejuvenated after watching these eighty-year old trees?

Some eighty-year old trees against the perfectly blue sky.

Some eighty-year old trees against the perfectly blue and white sky.

4. The weather

My French husband thinks we the Finns are obsessed with the weather, but I guess it is normal considering that there are pretty extreme and unpredictable weather conditions in Finland… For example, when my husband arrived at the summer house last summer the weather changed from semi-tropical 27C to miserable 8C….. Enough to put a Parisian in a bad mood!

This summer we were particularly lucky. The temperature in the shadow was consistently around 25C and sometimes a bit more. The lake measured 22C during my stay, which is a lot. We were very lucky and I would have liked to enjoy more of that wonderful weather. Since my departure it has gotten even hotter, and if I remember correctly this summer’s record in Finland has been 32.5C. That is a lot for such a northern country!

Repeating myself, I know, but when the sun shines this strongly at 9 o'clock in the evening, it is miraculous.

Repeating myself, I know, but when the sun shines this strongly at 9 o’clock in the evening, it is miraculous.

5. The amount of sunlight

Whenever I return to Finland in summer I am astonished by the amount of sunlight there is. Even when the sun sets, it stays so close to the horizon that one doesn’t know if the sun is about to rise again. It doesn’t get pitch black in Finland in summer, and well, it doesn’t really get dark at all! Finnish Lake at Midnight is quite something! I would say it is the eight natural wonder of the world.

At the summer house I go to sleep watching this view.

At the summer house I go to sleep watching this view.

I would usually go to bed around midnight (it is difficult to go to bed when the night has not arrived!) and I would be woken up three hours later by the sun’s rays… I actually never got up to take photos of the sunrises but I am sure this is the moment when the animals wake up, moose cross the fields and bears take a deep breath while turning to the other side.

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Note: There are over 500,000 summer houses in Finland so one can imagine that each one of them has a life and a personality of its own. What I described above is a personal story about my relationship with our summer house. But why not to visit Finland and create your own love story?

…and if you liked this story, why not to check Pearlspotting on Instagram and Facebook, and Miia_Niskanen on Twitter? See you soon!

Finnish Lake at Midnight

I have been away from Finland for so long that I observe many aspects of life here as an outsider. One of the things I find particularly strange is the night, or should I say the lack of it. When the sun sets around 11.30 p.m. and rises just after 3 a.m. (as is the case this week), there simply isn’t enough time for the night to get dark. The sun stays close to the horizon, providing sunlight even when the sun is set. It can be very disturbing and during my first nights here, I kept waking up around 4 a.m. thinking the morning has arrived!Finland at midnightThis is the photo I took at midnight a few evenings ago. The nights have been getting shorter and darker since the Midsummer (The Midsummer Weekend in Finland) but still, one could read a newspaper outside without a lamp! This is obviously nothing out of ordinary to the majority of the Finns, but I find this astonishing and I keep taking photos. This is what living abroad does to you!

PS If you plan to visit Finland from May to August, think of bringing eye patches for sleeping. It may save your holidays….