"Thank you so much for your wonderful hospitality. Looking forward to seeing you in Finland!" -Maija, Lappeenranta, Finland
My family has always taken great pride in out Finnish heritage. If you come for a visit, you’ll find Finnish words here and there. Our Finnish heritage influences the architecture of our cabins, the food we serve, and the type of hospitality we like to provide to our guests. If you’re of Finnish heritage or are interested in Finns, come out to The Farm for a chat. As a pure Finn myself, it happens to be one of my favorite topics. We can even speak a little Finn together!
The Heritage Center is just a few miles from The Farm and features an authentic turn-of-the-century Finnish farmstead, including a log farmhouse built in 1898, saunas, and the historic Spirit Baptist Church. Check out their website for more Finnish events and history.
Most summers, we like to host a Finnish dinner, sometimes in conjunction with the Knox Creek Heritage Center and always with local people of Finnish background. It’s a fun time for telling stories of our Finnish heritage and Finnish community. Often, my wife Helen makes a big pot of Mojaka soup (find the recipe in our cookbook).
There’s usually some Finnish music as well.
"Finland," I said, turning toward the man sitting just behind me. "Is it by Iceland?"
We were at the opening session of the International Log builders meeting in Yellowstone Park. I had just overheard the gentleman tell the person next to him that he was a log crafter from the country of Finland. I, of course, knew exactly where Finland is. My remark was in jest, but he became visibly irritated and explained, at length, the exact geography of Scandinavia.
He ended by saying, "Finland is nowhere near Iceland."
Later, I discovered a number of persons he had talked with really did not know where Finland was located.
As my ancestors all came from Finland and I grew up in a Finnish community, I am able to speak the language, so we soon became friends.
It is true that most people know very little about Finland and its culture. The school history books in the U.S. often made mention that Finland was the only country that paid its World War 1 debt and little else.
When I was growing up in Brantwood, it was known as a Finnish community. There were church services in the Finnish language and you could hear people speaking Finnish in the stores, taverns, and post office. Finnish music was played at the dance halls and a number of town roads have Finnish names.
The Finnish people put a lot of thought into government and politics. Many who arrived in the U.S. during the late 1800's experienced an economic downturn. Grover Cleveland was the democratic president at that time and then as now people knew who to blame and became republicans. Later some became interested in the philosophy of the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) led by a Eugene Debs. A number of Finnish boys were named Eugene during this time. Others became interested in a more radical movement and joined the communist party. Some in our community actually emigrated to the Soviet Union during the 1930's.
Cross-country skiing was more than a recreational activity. It was for many the preferred way to get around in winter. People skied to school, to the store, to visit neighbors and so on. The skis were homemade from local hardwood timber and kitchen "canning wax" was used to provide glide. There are a number of stories of people skiing 50 miles or more to visit someone, get supplies, or work in a logging camp. Palmquist farm is over one hundred years old, and there has never been a winter without a ski trail from the farm headquarters.
No discussion of Finnish culture is complete without mention of the Finnish sauna. The usual sauna has a stove fired with wood. The stove has a ledge on top that contains rocks. Cold water is thrown on the hot rocks and it becomes steam. Among the benefits of bathing in this steam are good health, long life and prosperity.
Saunas are usually fired up on Saturday night. Years ago when fire towers were manned during the forest fire season the tower personnel were advised not to be concerned about smoke from Brantwood on Saturday night as it was most likely coming from the Finnish saunas.