August 14 – 29,  2015: Helsinki/Artjarvi/Oramatilla

Our first HelpX experience. We had a task list that we shared with a Czech helper and completed nearly all the tasks! It was a rewarding, warm and tremendous learning experience.

We picked cherries. I’ve never seen so many cherries in my life. Picked them from the bottom of the orchard and Mark climbed to the tops of the trees. We picked black and red currants and maybe I ate about half as much as I wound up bringing back to the house.

We learned how awesome gooseberry preserves are and I became determined to find them in America. Tree trimming for days. I learned which branches to cut and which to save. Learned what apple suckers are and why they’re important, how to plant them so you can have all the apples you need for a lifetime of pie.

We celebrated a birthday! The lovely daughter had a birthday and we had three different kinds of cake.

Mark even surprised V with a walking stick with a horse-head on the top. She was pretty shy about receiving it, but afterward she gushed to her mom that she really did love it. He also made walking sticks for the men of the house, so they could all go on explorations together, properly equipped of course!


Back to the task list. We cleaned up the windows that had been repainted so they looked brand new by the time we were finished. We stripped two tables and Mark resurfaced them using this wicked cool infrared heater. And Mark moved this very heavy BBQ set up from the rear of the property to the front.

While Mark was busy around the house, I was having my first official go at teaching English to speakers of other languages! When I taught English at a Finnish school, I gained tremendous insight into the flexibility teachers are afforded and the structure of the class. Room sizes are no more than 20 students, the school hours are no longer than 6, and the entire school day is conducted in socks! To read more, click here.

When we weren’t working on the task list, we were either out hiking or taste-testing homemade ciders, mead and brews. Not a bad way to wind down the day.

And finally, we put ourselves in the hottest place on earth – a Finnish sauna. Topping out at 200 degrees, it was the most intense, exhausting and dehydrating experience of my life. But I felt fantastic for the next few days. There’s a certain science to it, and it’s definitely good to let your body adapt to it. But wow, what a way to totally decompress.


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