Do you recognise the symptoms

Construction mania, firewood mania, mushroom mania and berry mania. These are all disorders that run in my family. They start sprouting as soon as the dark winter loosens grip on Finland.

As long as I can remember, my father’s had projects. ”Pikku juttu”, he calls them. It means ”done in a jiffy”. We all fear those words. Sure. They start small. Tiny actually. Typically on a napkin. Sketches. The outcomes, however, are construction structures of some sort. Refurbishment. Extension. New build. Something  we never realise we need. Something we certainly do not know we require to the extent that he intends.

The family summer house is a prime example. It started fairly modest. A typical Finnish cottage and a sauna by a lake, where we used to go with my grandparents. For years now, however, an annual ”done in a jiffy” project or two takes place there. This year-round leisure house now has a tower, various extensions, a separate guest bungalow, indoor sauna, shed, jacuzzi, terrace, fireplaces, greenhouse, sun deck, ring road. Never a dull moment. I actually thought this summer would be the year for him to enjoy it all and relax. Perhaps just paint a few interior walls , if it rains. I should have known better. A garage! There’s no garage. Take out that napkin and start sketching.

An extensive arsenal of machinery – circular blade machines, log splitters and undoubtedly soon a semi-professional firewood harvester – is a symptom of the second disorder in my family. Firewood mania. It is charactarised by an obsessive need to make sure that there’s an infinite supply of firewood. Let’s face it. In the era of central heating, firewood at our summer house is primarily consumed in fireplaces. More for aesthetic appeal than anything else. Sauna is naturally heated every evening, but the current wood-burning stove is very efficient. Even so, the life at the summer house revolves around the constant chopping, sawing, carrying and organisation of logs into neat stacks in the newly built woodshed.

The final condition that can clearly be seen in members of at least two generations of my family involves stained, cut fingers and various stops along the dirt road leading onto the summer house. My mother has these special spots, hush-hush places, in the surrounding forests. One for wild blueberries, another for sweet rasberries and third for those acidic lingonberries. The berry mania is not as serious as the one that follows later in the summer. Picking large hauls of wild mushrooms! She always has a mushroom knife and a few baskets and collection bags in her car. At home and at the cottage, an entire production line of different preparation methods emerges – pan frying and freezing, drying or pickling, depending on the type of the mushroom. It would be such a shame to leave any wild produce rotting in the forest.

Where are the leisurely summer days?



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