Off the Grid in Kuusamo: A Little Cabin in the Woods & The Crazy Chainsaw

You may not agree with me, but I have to say that paradise on earth is a little cabin in the woods, off the grid, on a lake….with a sauna….during the nightless summer of the great north. And that’s exactly what I have for the next week. We have no hurry anywhere. Just a glorious week of relaxing and enjoying cabin life! The bigger question is do we know how to relax? Does Ashlee know how to relax?

Ashlee and Ville bought this little cabin last year for a song. It’s super darling. It’s on about a 1/2 acre parcel of land on a little lake. Well, Ville calls it a pond, but I am from Arizona so anything bigger than a raindrop is considered a lake! It’s actually a pretty deep lake, too.  The added bonus is that there is only one other cabin on the lake, whose owners live in Sweden and spend just one month here each summer. They are not here now.

There’s firewood for heat, which we won’t need this week. Well, I take that back, we need firewood for the sauna. All the wood is already stacked so I don’t have to do any of that work. The kids helped Ville last week with piling it neatly under the porch. I never realized that the kids are actually capable of doing real work!

And there is this special little hut. Don’t worry….this has one of those nonsmelly Eco toilets.

The cabin comes complete with a little rowboat.

And the forest is full of blueberries.

The cabin has a cute little kitchen with a gas stove.

The plan is to redo the fireplace at some point.

Bjorn has figured out how to relax. His favorite thing is to curl up with a good book or maybe an Aku Ankka…..Don’t worry he will be hard at work soon!

Kristoff is our fisherman. The cabin is on a private lake, and Ville has managed to get permission to fish. Kristoff loves fishing next to nothing else on this earth. Every time you drop a hook you get a fish, even if it isn’t baited. The lake is not very large, which some would argue that it’s actually a pond…..but for an Arizonan it might as well be an ocean….even a puddle qualifies as a miraculous body of water for an Arizonan! The nice thing about the size of the lake is that the kids can get out and paddle around by themselves. They love the independence!

Annika’s favorite thing to do is swim…..the proper Finnish way. That means get hot in the sauna and then run into the cool water. And then do it again and again and again…..

Now if you’re not a Finn you might not know this, but the best type of sauna is a good old fashioned one…..with a wood fired stove that has a super awesome water storage container on the side of it. What you do is load up the stove with firewood and as it burns the water in the storage container heats up….and presto!! You now have hot bathing water! Open up the spigot and fill your bucket….just don’t burn yourself! Of course the wash water is from the lake…..there is no running water here! That’s called off the grid…..

On the first morning I take the kids out for a paddle in the row boat. The water glitters and flashes in the bright sun light. What a. beautiful morning!

Ashlee is painting this ginormous tree trunk that will become a flag pole when all is said and done. In the meantime I make myself useful painting an old swing set.

Once Ashlee  is done painting she takes her gloves off and starts cleaning her brush. She sticks not just one hand, but two into the paint and tries to wash it off with water……oh no! Horror of all painting horrors….it’s an oil based paint and she can’t get it off her hands! There is no cleaning solution around that I can see. I call Ashlee’s fatherinlaw for help, and luckily he was able to tell me where to find the bottle of paint remover that was on site! Phew….disaster averted! I can’t believe I had never taught my child about the perils of oil based paints before this!

Once the paint is dry on the swing Bjorn has to try it out. Hmmmm….yes it is comfy, mom. My keen eye has spotted the pile of logs behind the swing…..

Ashlee received a pot of beautiful flowers for a cabin warming gift.

When we get hungry Ashlee cooks up some delicious, yes to die for, reindeer stew! Mmmmmmm!

Ashlee signed us up for a 9K race which is coming up in a couple days. We need to train a bit for it so in the evening we head off into the woods for a jog. The advantage of having mosquitoes in the forest is that when you stop running you get eaten alive, therefore you keep on running. The forest here is mossy and beautiful…..and wild….really wild…..

The next day it is time to put up the flag pole and raise the flag! It is St John’s Day, a day of great celebration in Finland, which calls for a flag raising ceremony. Now, make no mistake about it….it is not easy to raise up a tall tree trunk come flag pole like this!!! This baby is heavy!!! And I am living in fear of it toppling right over when we get it upright! In my mind’s eye I can see my kids getting crushed beneath it as it comes crashing down! As we slowly raise the pole Ville shouts directions. “Keep your brace low to the ground! No, not like that! Keep it low!” As the pole reaches 90 degrees it seems to shudder, as though trying to decide if it should flip over and crash down on the other side……somehow our braces work and support the mass in place until Ville can place thick bolts in the bracket that he has built and cemented in the ground.

There it is! The pole is up and now we just raise the flag….”Oi maamme Suomi synnyinmaa….”

Make no mistake about it! One of the amazing things about the Finnish summer are the nightless nights. Here is the sky at midnight.

In a miracle of nature the midnight light hits the trees across the lake in a fascinating manner, making it appear as though the trees have turned gold. I stand still for a moment feeling peace in my soul.

While I watch the display of gold, a spider near me slowly spins it’s web.

There’s plenty of bed space around here but somehow the munchkins are all scrunched on one bed with me.

I just came up with another hairbrained idea. Ville has a stack of logs sitting outside doing nothing, which I had spotted earlier. I recall the story of Huckleberry Finn and how he made a raft out of logs. I think a raft out in the lake might be pretty awesome! That way you could swim out to the raft after warming up in the sauna. “Hey kids… you want to build a raft?”

I do a little research on the internet about how you can tie logs together to make a raft. We decide we had better wait for Ville. When we tell him about our plan he is gung-ho, but the whole thing of logs tied with rope is a no go. Ville has a better idea. We make a run to the local building supply and pick up some free material that we will need.

The first part of the job entails cutting the logs to the right length with the right type of work clothes on, of course! You are pretty much guaranteed that mosquitoes won’t bite through this!

Look at this little 12 year old girl lugging around big tree logs!

Now I have to tell you, I am greatly afraid of chain saws. My danger sensors are going off like crazy as Ville operates the chain saw. I think Ville cut his teeth on the chain saw, but it makes me more nervous than heck when Bjorn is holding the log so near to this death machine.

You may imagine that the logs are heavy so we need to move the operation closer to the lake before we complete the raft.

Finally the raft is ready. We flip it over into the water, and guess what? It barely floats! You certainly can’t go on top of it without it sinking. Never fear. Ville has a solution!

Ville goes to pick up these big plastic tubs from his parent’s place. Oh dear! His plan involves using that crazy chain saw again, but this time in the water! This is when the real craziness begins. I told you I am super afraid of chainsaws. Ville was born with one in his hands, I think, so he is very talented in using this killing machine, but I can’t allow myself to trust him completely. When I hear the sickening sound of the engine revving as it slices through the thick logs I can feel my heartbeat quicken.

Kristoff gets assigned the task of holding the raft while Ville cuts through the logs with his chain saw. Trust me….my anxiety level is pretty high right about now. If my kid loses his arm I will freak out!!! Wood splinters and water are spraying into his baby face so furiously that I find my face is wincing for him… my heart rate is not just quickened, but I begin to miss beats and feel strange palpitations in my chest. I have visions of missing hands and me rushing to bring my son and his severed arms to the nearest hospital, my faith in the medical system here not quite adequate. I wonder if my employer would pay to air evac my son back home? Would they know how to attach severed arms? Mercy! The engine revs to an even higher pitch, screaming out bloody murder in its wake, the blade whirling what seems to be just inches from my child’s arms.

When the craziness stops I stand in shocked silence. Ville is oblivious to my anxiety and agony. He has used this machine if once, then a thousand times. His confidence is unwavering. He just moves onto the next step in his plan, and strap ties are used to secure the pontoons in place. As for me, my heart remains in my throat, and I will find that I will be terrorized by this moment for weeks to come, and will awaken abruptly from my sleep with visions of missing arms and panic about my child’s safety. Never again. Never again will my child’s arms be this close to a roaring machine again….a death machine, no less.

When it’s all said and done Kristoff is not missing any digits or extremities, but the mosquitoes sure went to town on him.

The final screw is put in place.

And Annika is the first one to try out the raft.

In the meantime Aundrea has arrived from Oulu with Minnie. Minnie loves the outdoors.

So this is what you do. Go in the sauna and warm up. The more the merrier. Watch out for the dripping pine pitch, though! The previous owner who built this sauna used the wrong type of wood on the ceiling, and when the sauna gets hot the pine pitch starts to drip down. Fixing the ceiling is another project for Ville.

Then you throw a ton of water on the burning hot stove so it emits a ton of steam that practically sears your flesh off.

After you get superheated you run out to the water.

When you are cold again you run back to the sauna and get all steamed up, after which you run back out to the water. And Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

Minnie wants in on the action, too.

After all the swimming fun we have worked up an appetite. It is time to eat some “viili” ….it’s like a sour and stringy yogurt-like stuff that is so delicious!

While we are enjoying our viili we look out the window to find a reindeer wondering around the property. We are in reindeer country, after all!

Seriously? Can life get more idyllic than this? Is this not quite simply a paradise? I don’t think you can argue. A perfect little cabin on a perfect little lake in a perfect forest…..devoid of all the complexities of life…..just you and nature, the people you love, and a sauna…..and a few mosquitoes (hardly any this summer)…..tranquility, simplicity….