In the Sticks

At first I was going to say in the bush, but learned that bush only applies to rural places with no buildings around whatsoever, and since I am in a house and there’s about 3 other houses nearby, my whereabouts qualifies as sticks. Australia I love your language.

Willy the koala
Willy the koala

I have been in the sticks, 26km from the town of Gympie, 2hrs north of Brisbane and an hour inland from Paradise Beach, for a week now. I returned from my New Zealand adventures a tad tired, and happy to be back in Oz. I have been taken good care of, fed well, and have just basically been taking it easy while contemplating my future, sorting out pictures, re-making my website and whatnot. The days have been filled with cooking and on the odd occasion we have ventured to the nearby creek to build a dam and side streams. Flashback to childhood.

Skilled fetcher
Skilled fetcher

One day we ventured out to the beach, which was amazing in the 30 degree heat. Swimming in rough waves, no sunburn and I drove a part of the drive out! What a lovely day, looking back on it. The only other occasion I’ve left the near vicinity of the house was yesterday, when I saw a real Aussie farm and met the lovely farmers (and their resident koala!).

King of the Hay
King of the Hay

It is always interesting to meet people from a completely different paths of life, and to learn about their lifestyle and motives behind their way of life. This couple was particularly friendly, and we got to do all the activities in few hours. Quad bike riding, climbing on haystacks, feeding piglets, shooting a revolver…now I can tick that Aussie experience off the list.

Billy the Kidd shootin' some balloons
Billy the Kidd shootin’ some balloons

Next destination: The Philippines sometime in March. Unless something crazy happens.

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Tila Kaupungissa, growing organic food movement

It makes me happy to see that people in Finland too are starting to pay more and more attention to the (too often low) quality of their food. Even if going back to the roots and eating foods your grandmother knew to be good to eat is just for the sake of being oh-so-trendy and because everybody else is doing it, I still think it’s a win-win situation: small producers get much needed income and support, people get to know what real, near produced food is, and they maybe appreciate the valuable ingredients more. There is a big difference between frozen, prepacked and slices veggies to fresh ones straight from the farm. Some state that there is a difference between soy/corn fed and grass-fed meat, let alone wild game, too. Go figure! Once you know how you want to take care of yourself and others, the next thing is to figure out how to do it. Luckily, the options are growing and the selection is getting wider.

 

More farm fresh and organic products in Tampere
More farm fresh and organic products in Tampere

Yesterday I visited the opening of Tila Kaupungissa(Space in the City), a new sort of organic incorporated store in Tampere. For 100€ you can buy a share of the store, which entitles you to certain discounts as well as events. Some of the products come from owner farms, in addition to the imported organic items. The shop is open to anyone, not just the owners.

 

Got greens?
Veggies from a near-by farm

The opening of Tila was filled with people (mostly older), and I believe there is strong demand for this kind of action. Currently there are only few organic stores in Tampere, and not many of them sell organic produce. Somehow it seems like all the organic stores are located in the same small area, too; good for the customer to be able to shop in different places at once, but may be challenging for the entrepreneurs in terms of competition. Though the organic movement is improving, the majority of the supermarket chains still keep on advertising food like products as opposed to veggies, and they don’t offer substantial organic selection. The strength of these small, person-run stores lies in their personality and character. It is always nicer to go to a store where you talk to people, maybe have a cup of coffee or tea, and know that you are supporting a good cause.

 

Space in the city
Space in the city

In addition to Tila Kaupungissa, one can find good produce and great food ingredients as well as natural cosmetics and products around Tampere, for example the following:

Vegetarian/vegan stores

  • Ruohonjuuri, in Keskustori. Besides offering the most variable selection of packaged superfoods and organic food products for almost all possible needs, Ruohonjuuri has some organic frozen products as well as produce and dairy. The store also stocks a large selection of natural cosmetics, bodycare products as well as essentials for cleaning, babies and pets. The store has become my second home since moving back, because in the corner just happens to be my other workplace! So, with your shopping you can also enjoy delicious, organic raw smoothies, cakes and chocolates made on-site.
  • Runsaudensarvi, in Kauppakatu (behind the City Hall). My go-to place for bulk items: nuts, seeds, beans, flours, trail mixes and fruit treats, superfoods, etc. The bulks are cheaper than in other stores, and you can choose how much to buy, win-win! They have a great selection of other vegan cooking products, too. The staff is very nice, and there is a tea corner with some books and (vegan) magazines to read, too. 10% discounts to members of certain assocations (i.e Animalia), product samples and small gifts with a purchase over 5€!
  • Punnitse&Säästä, in Kuninkaankatu (Next to Anttila). Largest variety of bulk items, including candies, sugar coated fruits and non-vegan items. In my experience it is more expensive than Runsaudensarvi. The abundance of selection can make you go nuts over nuts, and besides getting sugar high you end up emptying your wallet.

Local food & organic stores

  • Ruokapuoti Lempi, in Tammelantori. Lovely interior and a cafe corner, this store offers produce, meat and dairy products as well as some bakery items from near-by farms. Great place to stop by when visiting the Tammelantori market. If you are in the area, also check out Kahvilla cafe, which is on the same street as Lempi.
  • Luomukauppa Ani, in Kauppahalli. If one visits Tampere, they simply must go to Kauppahalli (market hall). Just for the sake of the atmosphere.

Now is the best season for spending some time in the outside market – something I always want to do, no matter where I am. Too bad the season in Finland is so short, so you must make the most out of it! Nothing so far has beat the combo of sunshine and strawberries!

Moomin hut
Moomin hut

Yama, shiro, faamu and gift shoppu!

Field trip Japanese style! 3 destinations, 12 hours and closer to dozen gift shops – despite being behind schedule for a while, we made it back to Ap House in time, happy and tired.

The first stop (after the 10 minute bus pit stop) on our trip was Aso volcano, about 2 hours away from Beppu.

Crater, not an onsen, though both look pretty similar

The terrain on Asosan was rather rocky and rough. Since the volcano is located over 1500m above sea level, it was rather chilly, too. There was several warning signs for people with asthma, heart disease etc., since the fumes contained something not too healthy to breathe.

Pray to gods the volcano won’t erupt

After looking at the craters, we were supposed to walk down the mountain to the bus. Me and my friend too initiative and rode the cable car back down: we had plenty of time at the gift shop, and avoided freezing outside.

Cable car ride to Asosan, Mountain Aso volcano crater

Next stop was next to Asosan, a bowl shaped meadow Kusasenri, which actually was just a visit to a gift shop to hawk on all the free samples of the regional omiyage. (No pictures of the pond.) Next stop, my definitely most favorite part of the trip: lunch in Aso farmland.

Shrooms! And many different kinds…I would have needed a tour guide

The mushrooms pictured above were just a small part of the most likely best buffet I have ever had on an organized trip. The restaurant was called “Viking” for some reason, but the food was mainly Asian, luckily with many different salad and mushroom options. Unfortunately we did not have nearly enough time in Aso Farmland, so I did not even get to understand what the place was all about. There were some exercise domes, farm animals and funky activities for kids, spa, shops selling beauty and health products as well as loads of omiyage and other food, milk factory, mushroom cultivation and I can’t even imagine what else. I would have definitely liked to spend the whole day (or weekend) there! After rushing to the bus, we were off to the tourist highlight: The Kumamoto castle.

Part of the Kumamoto castle, and not even the best part

After few hours bus ride, we had an hour to explore the Kumamoto castle. After rushing through the main castle, me and my friend got to the best part: shopping area. Unfortunately, once again time was against us.

Time is money, so I saved my money here by not having time to shop!

3 hours on the bus with a sugar rush, I learned few new Japanese words. The trip was an overall success, and the price was ridiculous as well: 3000yen (30e) wouldn’t normally have even covered the entrance fees, let alone transportation and the magnificent lunch! I wish I had 2 or 3 days trip, but this was definitely worth going as it was. Now I just need to find out, if there are any similar places to Aso farm land!

Ps. The Kumamon bear started off as being cute and nice, but seriously: how many products can you make with it? It is everywhere! If you don’t know which bear I am talking about, google it and see if it looks familiar. If not, you should definitely visit Kumamoto – the castle is nice, too! And the city, even brom inside the bus, seemed so alive after Beppu.