Relaxing and gathering strength after Easter…we had a fantastic time! A little while ago we had an expert on trees out to look at our three christmas trees in my garden for a price suggestion. They weren’t pretty but I really wanted to keep them since my grandad planted them a very long time ago. He planted one for each child, he had four but didn’t plant one for the youngest before he accidentally drowned out fishing. During this year one of the trees died and the others looked dying. I would be very expensive to cut them down. I spoke to a neighbour about it and day before Easter three Christmas tree hunters(in my age) knocked on the door claiming to be tree experts and asking if they could take one of the trees as the centre piece for the big bonfire, how happy was I?? So they turned up in larger numbers on Easter eve morning, cut it down, dragged it behind a car and pulled it up the mountain!
I stayed for many hours watching everyone build the bonfire. All the trees that kids around the island had collected since Christmas where brought out in daylight and pulled up the mountain. It’s a huge family convention, kids from the age of 3 to adult help out and have a great time.
The whole tradition is not only positive, there are a lot of break-ins and fights but overall I think it’s fantastic and hope it carries on for many years to come. In the old days they put a lot of tar, led and whatever they could find that burnt on the fire which caused toxic fumes but now it’s mainly trees and this year they used oil from the chip-shops.
In the evening we went to watch it burn, 1319 trees, lots of people and an amazing feeling! The day after we returned and my tree was still there, kept upright by metal wires, still smouldering many hours later.
So the tradition on the islands are still going strong. There is nothing else as controversial if you don’t count “build a bridge vs keep the ferries”. I try to not let my personal views out too strong in this blog but I do love the xmas tree hunting. Comparing to the old days it is so much healthier now and since one or two years ago, the council put some effort in to it trying to stop people using car tires and petrol etc, now we’ve had the cleanest bonfires since probably like ever! We went up to the nature reserve to watch them build the fire earlier today.
This year we went for the largest fire on the Island. Since we moved here we have gone to Kanonberget but this year there was a big landmark for boats put up right where the bonfire usually is and I also think that fire will die out soon because of lack of interest. So we went to the biggest one, in Rö(Hönö Red) we have all heard lots of horror stories about that one, people being put in hospital, burning tires chasing people down the hill and a four wheelie being overturned into the fire. But this year we came away with the feeling that we miss the usual bonfire. There is usually at least one crazy person shouting, a few people letting off fire works in the crowd and the happiness when you actually make it up the mountain through all the shrubberies and cliffs. Comparing to the big crowd, lit-up way to the top, our usual fire felt much more intimate and fun. I hope they will start it up again next year!
Last year I arranged a xmas market in the barn two weekends in a row. This year I felt one weekend(next weekend) is enough which gave me more time to explore the yearly event down the harbour. Last year I ran down after my closing hour but today I even went twice, once in the morning and now after dark. There are art exhibitions, lottery, crafts and the usual xmassy stuff but of course since we’re on an island a lot of it has a seafood theme to it. In the fishing museum they kept up with tradition and served fried herring on crisp bread with sliced red onion, next year I promise I’ll try some. I think I counted five prawn lotteries! For some reason I expected the prawn price to go up during the weekend but it was the opposite. The big fishing boats were “parked” by the market and a couple of school kids were selling prawns straight off the boat, I still regret not buying any. Although I did treat myself to a pair of socks for xmas and got some for my family, now I just need decide which ones to keep!
People are in general very crafty on the islands, you know xmas is coming up when all the yeast is sold out and the shopping trolleys are full with pork for sausages. I bought some home made pickled salt gherkins and had my first glögg(Swedish mulled wine) for this year. A few weeks ago we had the privilege to test bake with 3D printed ginger cookie shapes and today you could buy them on the market. Palle who does the 3D printing also takes fantastic photos at sea, my favourite was the canvas lit up from behind, genius.
3D printer in action
Copyright Paul Hultsbo
Vinga lighthouse lit up Photo:Paul Hultsbo
Photos: Paul Hultsbo
I spent all day cleaning out Christmas and also because my husbands birthday happens to fall on the day Christmas is officially over(in Sweden anyways). Gosh I must say we are probably the messiest family I know but then it feels all the nicer when it’s done! I’m not the only one on the island being busy, all the youngsters on Hönö have their hands full. From day after xmas until Easter they are out, mainly boys between 7-25, looking for xmas trees. They ditch school, stay out all night and cycle around every nook and cranny on the islands(well the older one’s have Volvos). Last night I saw a light behind the barn, a car without the lights on and heard some noise so I thought I had to check it out. Of course it was xmas tree gatherers. I told them they are welcome to look around but please close all doors behind you. They were so friendly and helpful that something in the back of my head thought -hmmm maybe they weren’t looking but actually hiding? The next morning I had a look in “veboa”, a small shed behind the barn/gallery where I keep my wood, it was packed with trees! I’m really impressed with their technique, they’ve tied loads of trees together with ropes to fit in a small place. I told them that I would chuck out my tree Friday and they were very grateful. A lot of people think this tradition is a nuisance and should be stopped but I think it’s great. If you’re curious about where the trees end up read my earlier posts The big hunt is on! and You know you live on an Island when. It will be interesting got see how long they’ll stay in Veboa before another team finds them.
It turned into a very productive Halloween! Halloween is still very confusing for most Swedish people. It didn’t make it here until a few years ago and every year Facebook is flooded with questions and statements about when to actually go out to do the trick-or-treating. I think most people confuse it with All-saints when you go to the cemetery and light candles. A lot of people also seemed to think that because the 31st fell on a Monday it would be ok to go out the weekend after. We did bunker up on sweets and the doorbell rang three times. I had my own fun ignoring the mask ban(this was sparked from the world-spread clown scare and last years shooting at a Swedish school but it didn’t register my mind at all until afterwards -doh!) and opened the door with an alien mask(cause it was still in the hallway since last year) on going -Whaaaa!!! All the kids looked a bit stunned but then asked for sweets. My daughter picked a very detailed pumpkin pattern and I thought she would give up but in ten minutes she was done!
In the morning I started this years Glögg, a Swedish kind of mulled wine, first time ever actually for me. It’s very simple. Made of cut raw potatoes, baking yeast, ginger, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, raisins, sugar and a soda called Svagdricka which is only sold about this time of year. You mix it all together and leave it for six weeks. We also made Hönö bread in our own oven for the first time. Usually it’s made in a wood oven like you can read about in my past post. It did take a lot longer because our oven only heats to 275°C, even with an oven tray over it and baking it on a pizza stone but I’m very happy with the results! Hönö bread is very sweets and fluffy, nicest when still warm from the oven or the day after I think. Ours turned out a bit too sweets but with butter and sprinkles of salt it was still yummy. We’ll do another batch before the xmas market and tomorrow we will experiment with crisp bread. If you have any suggestions for a recipe please comment!
Just back from a week in Iceland. Both me and the children came to the same conclusion, Iceland has amazing landscape but hey Hönö is the best no contest. Yesterday we had a very traditional Midsummer eve celebrated with lovely food, board games and midnight swim. We went to see people dancing to the frog song around the Midsummer phallic pole and made head wreaths out of flowers from the garden. I bullied my husband and guests into trying the Surströmming that I bought two years ago. It is really a Northern tradition, eaten on crispy bread with boiled potatoes, sourcream and red onion. It is fermented herring and known for it’s very vile stench which forces you to open it outside while making sure not standing too close or you might be sprayed with fermented herring gunk. Some people say it tastes like a very mature cheese and last time I tried it I could have agreed but this time it was just truly disgusting! Today has been a day of rest. My only project for the day was making elderflower cordial, luckily it is so easy it takes no effort! The flowers are almost gone so it was in the nick of time. The recipe called for 40 flowers, I lost count but filled a bucket, boiled water, sugar and poured it over the flowers with lime and lemon. Leave for 3 days and then sieve and bottle. The garden has gone crazy, only being away for a few days(luckily it rained a lot so my husband didn’t have to do his watering duty every day). There are tonnes of cherries ripening, red and black currants and my quince tree is full of fruit! Despite saying I would put extra effort into the roses I have been neglecting them but they are coming on great anyways. The flowers I planted in the veg patch to help germinate the soil are stunning and there are so many bees and bumble bees. It’s like a chorus of buzzing, maybe that’s why there are so many berries this year?