When is Summer not really Summer

There has been a lot said on my blog lately about our holiday in Malta. There is much left to be said, adventures to be relived and ponderings to be considered. For now, for this week, however I’m going to take a break from the holiday and let the blog settle back into daily life.

Freshly baked daily bread

Freshly baked daily bread

Despite us just having recently passed the peak of Summer, the two things that usually sum up that time of year in Sweden do not apply at the moment.
Most of the locals, our workmates and friends have disappeared to sunnier climes, or popped up on sunny beaches on Facebook or sporting a tan from weeks in Spain. Even businesses are taking a break, many stores sporting ‘semester stängt!’ signs on the doors and promising to be back in August. Our own tans fading, we have returned to work and the usual comings and goings of the non-holiday year.

No doubt it was like this last year, during our first full Summer, but the long sun-filled days and fine weather distracted us from the absences. We have not been so lucky this year. Rather than open itself up to endless blue and those tiny, puffy clouds that are so nice to stare at while lying on your back after a picnic, the sky has opened to release rain, and a lot of it. When we returned from Malta we arrived in time to enjoy the third of three properly Summer days, and since then we’ve all had to suffice with mornings and afternoons here and there, scattered and fine enough that we feel grateful whenever we feel the warmth of the sun. It does teach you to enjoy it when it comes, and staring out the window at the blank white sky and drizzle, I don’t think I could ever take fine weather for granted again.

A semi-sunny day at the lake

A semi-sunny day at the lake

So we sit inside, and when we’re not working my partner gets on with his beer and cider brewing while I design labels and help with the bottling.

A few of the bottled brews

A few of the bottled brews

My projects in the meantime have included making elderberry cordial and raspberry syrup from scratch, and tinkering with the idea of prettying up some old clothes. In short we’ve adopted Swedish winter habits, keeping our hands and minds busy while the world outside gets on with its unpleasant business, whatever that may be.

Raspberry syrup waiting to be tasted

Raspberry syrup waiting to be tasted

So, while our tans fade and the days shift inexorably to Autumn, we are occupied with creating and experimenting, taking a morning or afternoon to enjoy moments of sun, and looking forward to enjoying the fruits of our labours when the dark seasons properly set in. And vicariously enjoying the sun through those whose holidays still continue.

Elderflower cordial ready for Autumn

Elderflower cordial ready for Autumn

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Blooms and brews

It’s sunny and warm and unseen birds are chirping. Time seems to pass slowly, perhaps because of the long summer days that last through midnight. I usually write the first draft of a post in a notebook, finding a cozy place to sit and wait for the ideas to come. As I write this draft, I can smell the earthy, sour scent of tomato leaves and warm soil. Along the window sill sits a line of pots of all sizes, containing plants of various shades of green sprouting or lolling about. Though I’ve recently been to a night of obscure and worldly music, a speech about cultural appropriation, seen Sweden open up in the summer sun and learnt more about teaching, I’d like this latest post to be closer to home.

Young tomatoes in the sun

Young tomatoes in the sun

Many of the plants to my right are looking less than healthy, the lower leaves stained and wilted beneath newer, greener leaves. These are all tomato plants that I grew from seeds, carefully watering and weathering until I thought them tough enough to brave the outside weather. Unfortunately, they weren’t all quite ready and all but one are now inside again. Little yellow blossoms tell me that this was the right move, though whether I get food out of them is another thing. According to google all I need to do to help with pollination is give them a little shake every day, which for some obscure reason is a bit of a relief.

Tomato flowers

Tomato flowers

In between the tomato plants are covered plastic growing boxes with seeds that I planted two weeks ago. The cress has been growing like a weed, leaning purposefully towards the sun and already tasting sharply peppery. Behind them are the nasturtium sprouts, which are popping up more ponderously and then quickly unfurling. Every day adds about a cm to each sprout, especially when there are blue skies and the sun is pouring in through the window.

New sprouts

New sprouts

Next to this container is a smaller one with only one sprout. They were planted at the same time as the tomatoes but seem somehow reticent. I’m tempted to poke about to see if they’re even trying. The one survivor is growing quickly though, and hopefully will pop out with a flower or two soon, and perhaps even some little, pinky-sized smultrons (wild strawberries).

At the same time, other living forces are underway in the spare room, getting on with a process as old as civilization. Brewing.
Two weeks ago my fella started creating what I’ll call generic beer, with the help of a friend who is much more knowledgeable than me about beer. Which isn’t all that difficult to achieve really. There was mixing, boiling, cooling, stirring, the adding of yeast and pouring, accompanied by the drinking of beer (to collect bottles for the brew) and much serious staring at the malty, hoppy mass. Some of the malt mash was used to make two excellent loaves of bread, thick crusty loaves that go down well with butter. The pre-beer is now bubbling away happily, along with the newest addition to the brew room.

Freshly baked beer bread

Freshly baked beer bread

This last weekend we spent a fair amount of time purchasing a juicer and 10 kilos of apples, and then lugging them home. Sadly I was able to eat none of the apples, as they were all put through the juicer to serve a higher purpose. Their juice is now frothing away, fermenting merrily into what I hope will become cider.

Frothy fermentation

Frothy fermentation

The next step is unclear, but mead, stout, lambic beer, wine and apple beer have been suggested. All I hope for is that when they’re done to our satisfaction we can have a sunny day to enjoy them, perhaps by the lake. If I’m very lucky there may even be a handful of cress, a couple of juicy tomatoes and nasturtium petals to mix into a salad. Or even a tiny, extremely sweet wild strawberry to savour as I sip our homemade cider in the fading summer light.