An Evening Stroll and a Bit of History

I had to take a day off of work because I have (again) sprained my fingers when working on my current project. So I decided that not working one-two days is better than pushing through the pain and risk even longer and worse effects.

If I get the project to work, I will make a post about it, but so far it is only frustration and failures. So I have also decided to go for a walk whilst I think about things and how to solve the problems that I have encountered. I did not take my camera with me, but I snapped a few pictures with my phone and here they are.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This year’s wet and cold summer was very good for one thing – grass. The meadows surrounding our town have been mown for third time. This time they did not dry hay, for that the weather is not sufficiently warm and dry anymore, even on a sunny day. So they have wrapped the still-wet grass in these huge plastic-covered bales where it will ferment a bit before being fed to livestock in the winter. This has become quite popular in last years and some years they do not harvest dry hay at all. This year they did, two harvests of hay and one of this fermented plastic-wrapped thingy.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I live in a very windy area, which has downsides. The wide-spread meadows surrounding my house sitting near the top of a hill mean that in winter, my house is fully exposed to frequent western winds, which significantly affects my heating bill. One upside is that this area is suitable for windmills, so there are several on the opposite side of the town. Here you can see one of those windmills, standing still because there was no wind today evening. It is quite far away. In fact, the whole town is between me and that windmill, only you cannot see it because 90% of the town is in a valley, with a few dozen houses scattered around it in meadows.

This peculiar layout of a town is not a result of deliberate planning, it is an accident of history. The town was a fairly big industrial center in its peak time pre-WW2, with over 15.000 inhabitants. A lot of the land that is pastures/meadows today was inhabited in those times (although it was still a bit scattered, essentially town surrounded by homesteads, each with a garden and a few patches of field). But after WW2 the original German inhabitants were deported and the communist regime had no interest to really resettle an area this close to the German border, so only a few thousand people came in, from other parts of former Czechoslovakia. Including my family which originates from the Giant Mountains.

In the cadaster maps, there are still patches of land that are marked as “building plot” or “pathway plot” that are a part of a continuous meadow today. In fact, my garden consists of two garden plots and a pathway that does not exist for over fifty years now. Because after not repopulating the area, the communist regime had most of the empty buildings demolished and the gardens and pathways were usually plowed into the fields whenever possible. In some areas, there remains a testament to these former pathways, like three huge sycamores behind my house, which are all that remain from an alleyway. Thus my house, originally one in a reasonably long street became one of two stranded in the middle of a meadow, completely exposed to west winds. My father tells me that even the path leading to our house was almost plowed over, he intervened with the tractor driver and had to talk some common sense into him so he leaves at least one path to each of the still inhabited houses.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

My attempts at snapping a shot of kestrel hovering above the grass bales were unsuccessful, who would have thought that tiny camera lens with no zoom won’t be suitable for bird watching. But I did snap a picture of an airplane leaving behind it the poisonous track of mind-controlling chemicals, a chemtrail!!11!. Ever since I was a kid I have been somewhat fascinated by these. I do, in fact, remember asking my father what they are as a kid on an evening similar to this one. He gave me a reasonably good explanation given that there was no internet back then and that he has no higher education.

Midsummer Afternoon – Part 4 – Drought and Wetland

Guest post by Ice Swimmer.


These pictures are from the wetland in Harakka. The summer has been dry and the wetland wasn’t as wet as I had seen it before. Still, it looked quite lush.

© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Walking in the Woods

Two weeks ago Mr and I went to our local woods for the first time this year. Living next to swamp and marshland has its advantages, but it also meant that for most of this year the paths were unwalkable, unless you wanted to recreate that child-traumatising scene from the Neverending Story where Ayax drowns in the moor. It was nice, apart from the fact that the mosquitos must have been starved before they got us.

Two round mushrooms

©Giliell, all rights reserved

We found lots of common earthballs (though I really like the name “pigskin poison puffball”, which would make an amazing name for a band), which are nice to look at, but not good for eating if you value your survival.

Puffbal mushroom with a hole in the top

©Giliell, all rights reserved

puffball growing on a tree

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And I met a frog. I don’t think that they are poisonous.

small brown frog sitting in green leaves

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Sunflower Residence – Some Shy Butterflies

This series is nearing slowly its end. Had I had time and strength to post more often, it would probably be already over – the sunflowers are now mostly dead, at least most of the main blossoms are. All that remains are some smaller secondary blossoms that might or might not go to seed, depending on how soon/late the frost comes.

Anyhoo, today two pictures of butterflies who both buggered off before I could take a second picture closer-up, and neither of them obliged to open their wings so I get a good view, let alone a shot off, their upper side.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

I do at least know that this one is a member of the family Satyridae, very probably meadow brown Maniola jurtina, which is a very common species around here. I ain’t no butterflyist, but I do think I got the species correctly.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

This little bugger is also common here, common brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni. It is one of the first butterflies that show up after winter, sometimes even when there is still snow to be found on the north side of buildings and in the forests.

Although when I say these two species are common, it only means that they are still here in numbers big enough to see them. They are rare compared to what used to be here when I was a kid.

Garden update: Harvest is upon us

Autumn is sneaking in, which means that it will soon be time to say goodbye to the lush colours of the garden. But before we leave for winter, things are still growing.

Butternut squash on a planting stone

©Giliell, all rights reserved

There are finally some butternut squash. they’re pretty late, but this is the second one we ate and there’s a couple more. My corn (not pictured) was a mixed success. While the regular sweetcorn was ok (but I only had four stalks), the black popcorn maize put out cobs way too late and didn’t grow tall either. I doubt that it will still ripen and I’m a bit at loss as to why that happened. Can’t be the soil or anything I did, since both varieties were planted next to each other…

I will have way more chilis than anybody can wish for…

Orange chili on a plant

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Somebody must have told this one a dirty joke, it’s turning red.

And last but not least: asters. They’re about the last food the bees get in autumn and aren’t they just amazing?

pink/purple aster with lots of buds

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Teacher’s Corner: A Trip with Donkeys

The federal government decided to throw some money at schools “to make up for lost learning because of Covid”. While the higher classes who need to write their finals can have some free remedial lessons, we decided that the younger kids didn’t need more maths, but more social skills and hired a guy to do “Erlebnispädagogik”, outdoor education with us. Last week it was time for year 5, which is usually not my year, but because our school worker was sick, I got to cover for her and provide an additional adult, which was good, because in the end I was the one to bring the kids back to school.

The program for the day was a trip with donkeys and a dog.

Picture of a black and white border collie puppy, 4 months old.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Meet Luna, the hyperactive border collie pup. Of course all the kids wanted to be the one to walk Luna, and they all learned that walking a pup is more work than they thought.

Head of a grey donkey with a white snout

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Meet Bruno, the more stubborn of the two donkeys. His friend Fridolin is more docile, but also the boss. these two have the patience of a stone. The gladly took all the kisses and snuggles they could get.

The class was split up in 4 groups with rotating tasks: one for each donkey, leading them and making sure they’re not eating anything their boss didn’t declare safe, because people are assholes who throw away anything and some years back a donkey almost died after he ate something he shouldn’t have, one group walking the puppy, and one group walking in front with a map. Meet “my” happy group of rascals with Fridolin:

Six kids holding the leads of a grey donkey. Their faces are covered with stickers that say "We don't post pics of kids here"

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Of course I obscured the faces, it goes without saying that you should never post a kid’s face without permission. Us adults told them that we’d only intervene if they did something harmful for the animals. Apart from that, they were responsible. When it was my group’s turn to lead the way, they mixed up paths and used one that wasn’t actually a path but the destruction left after heavy machinery collected wood. Incidences like that are actually a good thing. The kids have to take responsibility, come up with their own solution, work together. When the ground became difficult to walk because of all the branches left by the machines, they decided quickly to work together and clear it for the donkeys.

We made it back in time and it was such a great experience. Actually we’d need this way more often. At least once a month. Even better would be a school dog or something like that. Or maybe a school donkey? The kids handle the animals with all the care and respect they never show for each other. One boy in particular, who already has a reputation for being difficult, was so totally taken in by the donkeys that he was the most peaceful and sweet kid all day.

a kid hugging the donkey and resting its face (obscured) on the back of the donkey

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next week I get three days of donkey fun. Sometimes I love my job more than usually.

Midsummer Afternoon – Part 2 – Fish in the Aquarium

Guest posts by Ice Swimmer


There is a brackish water fish exhibit on the island Harakka. The fishes, caught from the Gulf of Finland, spend their summer in aquariums and they are released back to the sea in the Autumn. In the Baltic Sea, both freshwater tolerant of some salinity and marine tolerant of low salinity species live next to each other.

The fish pictured here are less typical or well-known in Finnish waters.

In the first picture, a tench can be seen. In Fínnish, it’s called suutari, which means cobbler or shoemaker (but the name may have nothing to do with making shoes, the fish is called sutare in Swedish and shoemaker is skomakare in Swedish). The tenches were rather inactive in the aquarium. The tench is freshwater fish.

A Lazy Tench © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

There are some pipefishes in the Baltic Sea. The pipefishes are relatives of sea horses. This broadnosed pipefish is one of them. The broadnosed pipefish is called särmäneula (edge needle, neula = needle) in Finnish. The “edges” are lengthwise bony plates under the skin, which make fish look “edgy” according to Finnish Wikipedia. Broadnosed pipefish is a marine species that’s tolerant of brackish water.

Broadnosed Pipefish © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the third picture, we see a round goby. It is an invasive species from the Black Sea Area.

The Round Goby © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the second aquarium post, we shall be playing a game inspired by “Spot the lizard!”.

Oh Deer!

This is not a common sight. A single male roe deer, grazing near-ish our house in the middle of the day. He seemed quite unperturbed by a few cars passing the road about 100 m from him. And he was so focused on munching grass that he barely ever raised his head above his shoulders, so I mostly got pictures of his ass.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Argiope bruennichi (Wasp Spider) – Belly

This is very probably the same individual, it is not like these spiders are very common here. This time she has build a web near the front door to our house and she was there for two days. She has caught one caterpillar but nothing else, so after two days she packed up her ropes and went somewhere else. But on the second day, she was on the web with her back towards the wall and her belly towards me, so I could take a picture. See below the fold.

I had the species identification confirmed by an actual spider scientist.

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