JUNE 2024

We’ve entered peak flowering season. To survey the scene, is to witness something akin to balance, though balance feels like a dirty word these days – certainly, an all time level of diversity is what’s in bloom. Zoom in: what was once a field smothered by lupine is now an ecotone of budding dry meadow – cinquefoil, germander speedwell, wild strawberry, meadow buttercup, chickweed, dead nettle, and three kinds of hawkweed shine bright.

Closer to the house, perennials and annuals take off. Seeds we saved from last summer: california poppy, white & crimson clover, forget-me-nots, hempnettle, yellow stonecrop, pink & white perennial candytuft, wormseed wallflower, lacy phacelia, borage, wild pink, globe thistle, and perennial cornflower.

And beyond, betwixt garden pathways and barnyard shadows, familar faces return: wood crane’s bill, harebell, meadowsweet, water aven, beach rose, peony, comfrey, pink & white yarrow, sneezewort, solomon seal, heal-all, wild mustard, field scabious, melancholy thistle, white & yellow bedstraw, ground elder, ground hop, tufted vetch, knapweed, meadow pea, creeping bellflower, red campion, st. john’s wort; nettle, mugwort, raspberry and currant bushes spread in sun and shade alike. Some new faces too, yellow loosestrife and wild bistort.

We were lucky to get several generous rainfalls this month, but the two experimental beds in the front of the bird fence have been torched by harsh sun, our gravel yard can be crueler than a desert. Adding moss-covered, rotten birch logs, errant sticks and woodbrush, crumbly pinecones, musty woodchip, and compost soil, we fashion them on opposing sides until what’s been referred to as the “snake bed” starts to resemble an infinity symbol, or one of those superman “S” emblems we used to draw in gradeschool. The semi-circle bed we mulched with fermented pine needles dug (gently) from beneath the spruce line. I like to call projects like this fake gardening à la Keith Hennessey.

A drunk driver careened into the same spruce line late last month, the event rattled us all. Joni painted the injured spruce trees with a sticky, malt-colored sap upon recommendation by a local tree surgeon called out. We also rallyed with our nighbors and submitted a petition to the municipality to lower the speed limit. Fingers crossed.

Tinctures started this month: pink peony; beach rose x harebell; nettle x yarrow

It’s hard to believe how when we first arrived this 2ha was mostly neat gravel yard and tightly mowed lawn. In year one, we made some errors that are still easy to empathise with in hindsight, namely taking a wholehearted do nothing Takeshi Watanabe approach until we found ourselves in a sea of thickets: lupine, fireweed, and himalayan balsam. There was even a japanese knotweed that almost took over the garden beds around the sauna; it took two full summers to reduce, and I still dream about it every year: pulling out the roots like wrenching colossal wisdom teeth through tunnels of dark soil – a scene straight out of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

This summer is the first we’ve spent so little time reducing these avaricious plants, it’s fair to assume soil health is abundant, based on the diversity of plantlife on our humble plot. We’ll probably be negotiating with lupine forever thanks to our wide-eyed freshmen summer (2020 is the year that haunts us all), but we’ve made peace with that. And this rewilding work is humbling, and it is work, even if we didn’t quite understand it from the beginning. We will probably never be experts, but that isn’t our aim. Our only goal is stewardship, and like the rest, it’s a moving target. Learn as you go. Learn by doing. Respond rather than initiate. Observe. Observe. Observe. And again, observe. Subtle adjustments. Small experiments. Failing is growing and isn’t really failing. It’s more like, complexifying. Even more like, storytelling. Story-listening. Definitely, listening. Fake gardening or bad gardening or anti-farming or being lazy or being messy or letting it be or letting it be “ugly” or re-wilding or re-creaturing or re-peopleing or just being more alive than you felt the year before. Really living. Or dying well. Well, I don’t know how to describe it. To evolve alongside this 2ha, the change it’s having on us as people, creatures, stewards, hosts – it goes far deeper than what our eyes alone can grasp. July and August will be our last months on the Koneen Säätiö grant that supported our rewilding efforts over the last few years, but this work will continue far beyond clock time. 


The below is a guest entry/ substack excerpt from Spring artist-in-residence, Dr. Emily May Armstrong

“The spring at TUO TUO was still enrobed in stasis, a dormant watching-waiting. Amidst this takatalvi (a blackthorn winter), I mimicked stasis, until I couldn’t. May Day, Vappu in Finland, drove me to lead a wassail for a lonely deer-antler-scratched apple tree. Pouring cider on roots and balancing cider-soaked local bread into its small arms, avoiding the deep cambial scars through to its heartwood, we clattered pots and pans and yelled into the sky. Last year it gave one singular apple. Maybe this year it might bring two.

I dyed scraps of fabric with hot turmeric water, plunging my hands excitedly into the near boiling yellow liquid to make ribbons for the youngest birch. In Finland there are endless birches, many not yet entering their silvering years, many firmly footed in between, and a few hollowing themselves inside out by way of bark beetle and woodpecker. Kaitlyn of TUO TUO finds silver birches to be great exhibitionists, constantly peeling back their papery bark to show you what’s underneath; creating of us birch voyeurs each time we climb through the bryophytic underbrush. They’d pulled on fuzzy-leaved jackets by the time I left, but we knew what they were up to. We tied our ribbons and ate flame-licked corn and drank sima. 

The ground elder was first to crest above the straw after the snow melt-vaporated under the equally unseasonable hot sun that followed. Starting in a culvert, every time you blinked it crept, crept, crept, until the dry yellow straw left by the snow was green-dipped and then green-dripping. Then there was nettle, and dandelion, and yarrow, and meadowsweet, wood sorrel, wood anemone, lupine, lady’s mantle, clover, coltsfoot, mare’s tail, fireweed, blue-straw-rasp-berries. Then followed the swallows, the whooper swans, barnacle geese, finches, tits, siskins, wagtails, cuckoos, warblers, chiffchaffs. Joni of TUO TUO lights up as he finds brass-carapaced beetles, fuzzy-legged weevils, and lumbering bumblebees drunk on new nectar. On my birthday before the sun rises, I massage together equal parts lupine and sugar and leave it to ferment.

The rattling rapid rain visits compel me to strip and lie naked on the what-once-was-a-football-field, rolling in lupine and moss-beds. The what-once-was-a-football-field is now a shimmering ecotone – wildflower meadow studded with Scot’s Pine saplings not yet two years old. Every year they creep further away from the treeline, a gentle and stubborn succession in action. Later, another artist, K&J and I lie down in a subtle cubensis haze and watch a cathedral of cone-laden silver firs pulsing in heavy wind as we French-braid straw grass. The wind becomes so strong it rolls the carefully balanced smooth granite stones off their altars.”
– Dr. Emily May Armstrong

You can read more from Emily by following their substack Growing Towards The Sun.

it feels as if spring has arrived early this year, or at least its appearance flashed as suddenly as winter’s –  it was a muddy March, the earth appeared at the beginning of the month and although we seemed to slide hither and thither between winter and spring the smell of fresh earth was an indication of the end, and of new beginnings. the winter was so unbelievably harsh this year, as we are learning they sometimes are – although the reasons are not so easy to espy – i think we truly believed deep down to our core that this winter would never end, so in that way, March was a gentle month: “gently, gently” it spoke with fat white flakes and bright, cold drip drip drops from the hem of house and raging guttered edge.

the rainwater vessel on the south-east corner of the house became completely full; the soft ground beneath it buckled under the weight, the tap is practically touching the ground so we’ll need to dig a hole to access the water – hard to believe there will be a need to water soon, meanwhile everything is soggy and wet.

by late March, the birds arrived both early and right on time. we went on several ‘swan walks’ their songs leading us to their favorite fields, shallow ponds of puddles, shimmering swamps and mirrored pastures. and not far behind them were the cranes, their screams like dinosaurs, and then the seagulls whose cries most of all sound like summer.

the first “summer nights” came shortly after the total solar eclipse/ new moon, we had our first light-drenched sauna, a peculiar déjà vu. the old Finnish cosmologies say that the first summer nights are when the last cranes arrive, and the crow lays its first egg. it’s nothing but nonstop bird songs here, what a relief.

by mid-month (April), all the snow has melted, we haven’t seen the ground this early since we’ve been here at TUO TUO; today (14.4) we took a long walk around the 2ha to see how various plot moments and projects had endured the heavy winter, we visited our “queer forest” behind the large rock wall where curvy trunks of trailblazing trees grow strong; we found fresh buds on the maples and lilac trees, the cherry and bushy willows too. all the trees in the yard are growing taller and i cannot believe that soon we’ll see them dressed, fully fleshed when their leaves come in.

we visited the field – where a marvelous ecotone is evolving from wildflower meadow/ baby spruce forest/ moss-covered/ wild strawberry patchwork quilt. Joni’s sculptures convex around the fledgling trees with dizygotic sensitivy – a collaboration and touch of minimal interventon mirrors an earlier project (if not our entire rewilding approach) of removing the white picket fence where a dozen birch trees chose to grow inline – each soft-rotted, moss-covered log laid round a patch of sprucelings spoke like an invitation: “forest you are welcome here.” 

in the front of the house an ombre moss has begun spreading over the gravel yard like a gorgeous rash of electric yellow and neon rust, we send a subtle invitation to this colorful moss to overwhelm the whole front yard if that would be its wish.

so much has happened in the past two years – and in the past four, this is not a place we can keep to ourselves, as the forest surrounding TUO TUO shrinks with every felling season (at least 10 hectares close by were clear cut in March), this small 2ha feels nothing short of miraculous.

we’ve begun planning for spring; deciding what areas need the most attention, which plants/ seeds to acquire, sowing schedules, and some site-specific experiments; our main focus this year is on perennial flowers – for pollinators, especially those plants which provide food (seeds) for birds, as well as others for our own consumption and medicinal/artful purposes and collaborations. we source our seeds via https://www.maatiainen.fi/siemen.htm 

winter compost has required some creativity, esp. considering our house capacity has been higher than seasons past, but we luckily prepared (unintentionally) with stores of dead leaves which has provided the necessary ratio of brown matter to offset the high volume of kitchen scraps. in short, the compost is composting ~ allbeit a bit sluggishly

– while tending to the compost, we shared memories of our families’ compost heaps; Joni remembers loving to play in the piles of dead leaves as a child, Kaitlyn recalls the disgust they experienced smelling the compost pile located just outside their childhood bedroom window.

the year started at minus -30°C and we awoke to frozen pipes in the kitchen, it was a constant rollercoaster this month with dramatic temperatures and steady snowfalls; we were at full capacity with three-five artists at a time in residence, it was perhaps our most labor intensive month on record, we ended the month in a place of exhaustion but also discernment – the winter, with all its required exertions and unpredictability, might not be not a condusive period for hosting ...

we’re grateful to our January guests for bringing such warmth to the space during this intensely cold period, especially the cosy dinners and the wonderful birding phenology that occurred during their stay:

we decided to take this month off from recording, there is little additional time for anything else but rest – winter is raging.

winter is here. there has been snow on the ground since the first day of November, and it has been all-white ever since. the early arrival of winter has created a lot of pressure and it has required a significant amount of our attention as stewards – from an operational standpoint (i.e. financially because of the higher electric use required to keep indoor spaces warm); from a rewilding perspective (readying the winter bird feeders in time/ properly stocked for a long winter); and of course from a general maintenance standpoint (the list is too long to include here).

we experienced a mouse dilemma this month, perhaps due to the drastic change in temperature and conditions outside. freezing temperatures have a huge impact on everything, and in turn – our own capacities, we are meditating on the ideas of dormancy, malleability, stretchiness, change, and rest.

around mid-month we began cleaning and preparing the bird feeders, and buying seeds for the winter birds.

we trimmed the thickets amongst the 2ha forest, surrounding forest edges and the old sports field; raked and collected leaves for the compost.

created forest-floor nurturing artworks on the old sports field which is now hosting approx. 100 sprucelings, baby pines, and a few alders and birch trees (between 40cm – 120cm). the artwork consists of scupltures made from decayed branches and logs from old felled trees or pieces from the trees which were cut decades before we arrived to TUO TUO; mimicking a forest floor, the sculptures will fall and scatter and over time their presence will help to support the new forest growth. we have also gleaned from observation that plants and trees respond to placement and removal of various objects and we look forward to seeing what might occur on the field already next year in rsponse to the artworks.

the month was unseasonably warm, meadows reflowered; we picked boquets of fresh daisy, tansy and yarrow from the fields, all the plants seemed to retain their green.

we had our first big seed saving harvest, gathering from the native wildflower heaps we created last autumn and in early spring; we collected borage, poppies, flax, scabious, milk thistle, chammomile, and others.

it rained and rained and rained and rained; the amount of mushrooms was extreme, the chanterelles returned again and again and again – all throughout the foresty edges of TUO TUO; the suppilovahvero (yellow foot mushrooms) grew as big as heads of cauliflower.

the forest along the gravel road was clear cut; the forest to the left of the fork was cut; the forest across the lake where we usually pick yellow foot mushrooms was cut, and all were left in such dissarray they were almost impossible to enter. 

we took three weeks off in August, and although much continued outside (with and without us) we decided to take this month off from recording, next month we will rethink our approach to documentation for year 2 of the Kone grant period which supports our rewilding efforts.

JULY 2023
-started a ‘rewilding’ project in the front of the house to build soil / increase soil health on what was previously the parking lot used by the school (we refer to this area as “scorched earth”); we are gradually applying rich layers of green and brown matter, decaying logs, yard brush, etc. to create a forest-floor inspired terrain; this will be an ongoing experiment to observe, adjust and expand

-reduced fireweed and lupine

-native plants are blooming: flax, st. john’s wort, tansy, bell flowers, 

-numerous frogs and lizards of all sizes seen throughout the gardens

-after much research and photographic comparisons, the mystery holes in the field have been atrributed to badgers, but we have yet to spot them in action

-July 12, cloud berries spotted in the swamp (about half were ripe and reay to be picked!)

-red and black currants have arrived

-we planted sunflowers on the south-facing yard

-consistent tending to edges and wild zones beyond the gardens and before the forest, such as rock walls, creek beds, young forest, etc.

-reduced balsam upon its arrival (we have learned well to nip this one in the bud, so to speak)

-reduced fireweed and lupine

-reduced alder and willow where needed to prevent overcrowding

-planted perennial transplants gifted from our neighbor Tuula :)

-native plants are blooming: white and purple clover, wild strawberry, daisy, yarrow, cow parsley, lady’s mantle, various thistles, mugwort and nettle are growing taller 

-spread compost across the garden beds and campus

-six babies counted in the swallows’ nest above the back door; our relationship with the swallows has been peaceful and they are calm with our presence (the cat is a different story but she is no threat)

-bird babies heard in various birdhouses behind the house (some reinforcements were also made to deter woodpeckers)

-mystery holes observed on the field behind the house; their presence continues to increase!

-we have noticed a significant decrease in mosquitos this year (inside the house/around the gardens) which we attribute to covering all rainwater containers, and only leaving small, cup-sized water containers for birds and pollinators

-consistent tending to edges and wild zones beyond the gardens and before the forest, such as rock walls, creek beds, young forest, etc.

MAY 2023
-the greenhouse was finished; squash, beans, tomatoes, cucumber and chamomile were planted inside

-reduced dandelion, fireweed and lupine

-all cuttings of aggressive, biodiversity-threatening plants and couch grasses are done by hand; piles of green matter are left to decompose, or get added to the compost or layered onto garden beds

-the swallows have returned; nests have been built inside of the barn and above the back door to the house

-reinfornced forest paths in the “starter pack” forest behind the field, and edge zones on the south east sides of campus

-sunshine for three weeks straight, very dry April, temperatures hitting almost 20ºC

-started garden seedlings: tomato cucumber, kale, pumpkin

-buds have formed on the lilac, cherry and apple trees in the yard – they’re looking healthier than ever before

-willows are blooming and dusty with pollen

-over-wintered bumblebees and bugs are waking up

-planted red and white clover in the areas where goatweed loves to grow; signs of other competition appearred, namely ground hops and creeping charlie 

-snow has melted faster than previous years, garden beds are emerging; pallette compost piles are still frozen

-birds, birds, birds (our migrating friends are returning in numbers)

-sewed covercrops on areas cleared from invasive species in autumn ‘22

-greenhouse from recycled materials is well on its way

- tended to forested areas, young trees and native berry shrubs

-planted varieties of native perenniel wildflowers: Echinops bannaticus, Verbascums, Gypsophila paniculata, Silybum marianum, Lavandula, Papaver somniferum 

-aurora borealis / revontulet

MARCH 2023
-drew very loose permaculture-like garden sketches for the year

-began Sciaponics participatory research group led by Ilya Dolgov

-built and installed another 5 bird houses in the forest surrounding the house 

-gathered materials/ began planning for a new green house; kiitos Light Harvsting Complex for the windows <3

-coldest month of the year, March also saw some of the heaviest precipitation of the winter. snow depth ~ 70 cm

-aurora borealis / revontulet 

-saw aurora borealis or revontulet (a reference to Finnish mythology about the great fox in the sky) 

-the second half of feb saw the return of winter: a cold snap and more snow

-a storm had fell a dying tree (kelo) in the forest behind the sauna

-spotted some willow trees blossoming 

-snow depth ~ 40 cm (compared to ~110 cm in feb 22)

-baby blue february skies are a welcomed sight ~ conditions waver between cold/crisp and thaw/icy

-unseasonably warm nights have been good for stargazing

-seed inventory/ strategizing  

-snow work 
-maintained winter compost & bird feeders
-spotted plenty of animal tracks in the snowy forest: rabbit, fox, lynx, mink, squirrel... 
-a family of endangered willow tits (poecile montanus) has become a regular visitor on a feeder  

-made skii tracks in the forest 

-a new load of bone dry firewood from Timo 

-average temp -3C

-maintained winter compost

-kept bird feeders and ground areas clean

-average temp - 4C

-extensive clearing of fireweed
fields located on SE side of the barn 

-used the fermented/rotten plants for compost and mulch

-composted and mulched heap by the sauna, composted and mulched Joss’s heap
-permaculture-like thinking/planning for the spring (tended to garden beds next to the sauna, created smaller sections with rocks as borders)

-seed research for native plants/ cover crops/ edible perennials

-design phase for mini-greenhouse planning/ list for acquiring recycled materials

-observational perimeter walk on 2ha

-built heap along the outside border of the bird fence, built a snake heap on the NE side of the house and a semi-circle heap in from the barn

-raked fallen leaves to use as mulch for garden beds and heaps

-stored some fallen leaves in the barn for winter to be used as compost

-researched leaf mold*

*leaf mold is a soil amendment – essentially a soil conditioner that increases the water retention; leaf mold improves soil structure and provides a fantastic habitat for soil life: earthworms, beneficial bacteria, etc., it doesn't provide much in the way of nutrition, so we will still need to add compost or other organic fertilizers to increase fertility

-removed the white picket fence in the inner yard to allow trees to grow/ encourage filling in and new growth (used materials to build a front gate to prevent cars from driving onto the 2ha; stored remainder in the barn)

-thinned pioneer trees (willow, aspen, alder, rowan, spruce) whose quick growth had filled the spaces where larger trees had previously been cut before our time: surrounding the house [this work revealed just how poorly treated/managed the 2ha has been]

-thinned trees were used for: construction of the bird fence by the spruce line, spruce were used as protective coverings on garden beds, branches/trunks used as heap/raised bed material, we made small tidy piles on the floor of stretches of forest around the house, placed more strategically so that walking among the trees is easier and new growth is still encouraged; also, firewood

-built a keyhole heap on the N side of the house

-added compost to fruit trees/ added protective fencing

-installed birdhouses (5) 

Spring ‘23 – Summer ‘23
- common crane (grus grus)
- mute swan (cygnus olor)
- common chaffinch (fringilla coelebs)
- common wood dove (columba palumbus)
- robin (erithacus rubecula)

Autumn ‘22 – Spring ‘23

- great tit (parus major)
- eurasian jay (garrulus glandarius)
- house sparrow (passer domesticus)
- eurasian blue tit (parus caeruleus)
- great spotted woodpecker (dendrocopos major)
- willow tit
(poecile montanus)
eurasian blackbird (turdus merula)

- grey-headed woodpecker (picus canus)
eurasian tree sparrow (passer montanus)

by late April the bird populations become so overwhelming our observation/recording practice desists, but this has also served as an inspiration for thematic residencies 

how we support wildlife @TUO TUO:

-include plants that provide nutrition
(pollen, seeds, berries) so animals
may freely forage
-encourage the growth of native
trees and shrubs (also food)
-provide supplemental food (in winter)
-maintain 6 water features:
from large steel basins to
small clay bowls
-keep areas of dense foliage,
thicket, stone piles, brush piles
to offer creatures cover
& hiding place
-build bird and bat houses

-leave dead trees
which provide shelter/
abundance of insects (food)


Thank you Kone Founation (Koneen Säätiö) for supporting the rewilding work & research of our programme facilitators.