August 13, 2015
We turned off the highway onto a windy, hilly road reminiscent of those in northern Wisconsin that lead from main highways to peaceful places among trees and lakes. This led us to Savijarvi Farm.
On the farm, we were greeted by Agnetha (pronounced “Ahn-yeh-ta”), a white-haired, very slim elderly woman who couldn’t be over 70, but many years of farm work made her look older. The first time we saw her, she was standing on the porch of the main house waving her arms trying to direct the bus driver’s maneuvering into a parking spot in front of the house.
When we got out, a young woman dressed in a long skirt and a brown pinafore appeared with a tray of flute glasses filled with a light colored, cool liquid, which she told us was elderflower juice. It was cold with a mild sweet taste – very refreshing!
We gathered in a yard behind a barrier of flowers and tall grasses, as we viewed a mare with her 1-month old foal scampering after her. The foal was missing hair – patches of its downy baby coat was falling out to be replaced by adult horse hair.
They are both of the official Finnish breed, the “Finnhorse” or “Finnish Universal” – a horse bred to serve all of Finland’s needs for both riding and agriculture. The goals were to develop a heavier working horse, a lighter trotter type, and a versatile riding horse. The Finnhorse was declared Finland’s official national breed in 2007. The breed is defined as a strong, versatile horse with a pleasant disposition. The most typical color is chestnut, as were the mare and foal we were seeing, often with white markings. The mane and tail are often flaxen, lighter than the coat, an example of which I took a picture of later. (Source)
The origins of the Finnhorse go back centuries, but in the 16th century, other horse breeds were introduced into Finland, and cross-breeding took place. The result was a somewhat larger, sturdier horse. In the 1980s, the breed’s numbers had drastically diminished, so that there was a fear of extinction. Savijarvi is a working horse farm dedicated to breeding and training this beautiful breed.
The handler walked the horses around the yard and had the mare stand still for admiration and photos.
Next the handler brought out two Shetland ponies, which we were told are a bit smaller than the Shetland ponies we are familiar with. Agnetha told the story that when she and her siblings were children, they all wanted a pony and pleaded with their father to get one. But he said, “There will be no ponies on this farm!” Later, however, when he became a grandfather, his young grandchildren also asked if they could get a pony and, like any indulgent grandpa, he gave in to their wishes! So the farm now has three Shetland ponies.
In fact, 27 family members of four generations now live on the farm, in separate houses for each nuclear family. The youngest resident is 66 days old, and the oldest resident – Agnetha’s father – is 86. He lives in the yellow “manor” house. Agnetha said that having her father live by himself in the yellow house keeps him nearby, but also separate enough to maintain family harmony!
One of the family members, a young woman with a small son, 4-5 years old and wearing a protective helmet, had been leading him around on one pony and while we were watching, the boy gently brushed the pony’s hair.
Inside the house, a dining room had been set up for us upstairs “so we could see more of the house”. Many people lined up first, though, to use the WC’s downstairs. When it was my turn, I observed that the soft toilet paper (like American t.p.!) had something written on each square, each one different, but completely unintelligible to me. Upon inquiry, I found out it was a poem!
Agnetha explained the cooking philosophy and a detailed description of how she made the soup they were going to serve us, as bread baskets were put on the table by the girls we saw earlier (not sure if they’re family members or employees). All of the farming and gardening is organic – no chemicals used. Also the milk used is lactose-free. The food is made from natural and mostly local ingredients. The soup was stinging nettles soup – the creaminess was from lactose-free milk, potatoes, carrots, etc. that were blended together. Agnetha talked quite a bit about the stinging nettle and its curative properties. I was wary, still remembering having been “stung” by such nettles when we were in England in 1999! The only part that actually stings, she said, is the edge, and some people become immune to it after awhile, like Agnetha herself. The flat part of the nettle leaf can be used as a balm by rubbing it on a cut or wound.
The soup was actually
delicious! Filling and nutritious – we felt neither stuffed nor hungry after having a bowl of it.
There were some nice green painted cabinets and dishes on the wall, but the dining room felt open with windows flanking one side. Dale and I took many pictures inside the house.The dessert was to be served on the terrace, adjacent to another dining room with a long table.
It consisted of “birthday cake” (a Finnish recipe), with caramel sauce in a pitcher to pour over it, raw rhubarb with the red skin stripped off so that it isn’t sour – and berries – mostly currants, but also blueberries and raspberries, some fresh and some frozen. What they call “birthday cake” consists of three layers of white cake made of the farm’s own wheat flour, milk, sugar, and eggs
(yes, dessert can have sugar!). In between each layer, to soften it was a filling made of strawberry smoothies! And of course, there was coffee to serve ourselves to accompany our dessert. Once again, the dessert was absolutely delicious without being heavy.
Afterward, we went out to see the area where the horses are kept and trained. Agnetha explained a lot of things about how they work with the horses. They start when the foal is 2 months old. They teach them jumping, trotting, and pulling a small carriage, among other things. The horses are not raced, except with carriages. If an animal gets sick, they use homeopathic medicine on the farm; if that doesn’t solve the problem or it cannot be solved by natural methods, they call a veterinarian.
There is only one old building on the farm that has been there since 1450 – a small stone shed, near the main house, where we were standing earlier to view the horses and ponies.
All the other buildings were destroyed at one time or another by fires. Because of the unusual summer – cold in June and July, and now warmth in August – the wheat has not yet come up. Agnetha said sometimes moose or even a bear get into the mature wheat!