Faire une cabane

My life as serious hiker started five years ago when I moved up to the mountains. Hiking was one of the prime reasons for that move and I went out and about every day. I got to know other hikers, and they often got a special sparkle in their eyes when they talked about to “faire une cabane” – going up to a mountain hut and staying over there.
Most of these manned huts, situated at around 2.000 – 3.000 m altitude and surrounded by high peaks, are not easy to reach. The trail up there is long, steep, stony … simply difficult. After such a strenuous hike it is wonderful to reach a place where you are welcomed with a smile and where you can sit down and have something to eat or drink, and a little chat with the hut host or other hikers.
Simplicity is the leitmotiv of these mountain huts and life is basic. Every single item is transported up there by helicopter! If you stay over night, you have a simple common meal early in the evening and then you can play cards or chat, read or write, since there’s rarely any internet connection (nice for a change!). There are no showers, just sinks with cold water and you sleep in dormitories, sometimes with up to 10 other people. But…!
… waking up early to complete stillness, fully immersed in nature, going out to see the daylight rise over the mountain tops, hearing the whistle of the eagle or the marmot – that is just magic. After a good breakfast, you are eager to start off again, facing another difficult hike with renewed forces.
The beautiful little Cabane de Susanfe, is situated in southern Switzerland, close to the Dents du Midi. It was the first mountain hut I visited in years, and much thanks to the wonderful team of hut host Fabienne and her lovely assistants the stay really whetted my appetite. Let’s see if I will “make another hut” before the summer season ends….

Catching a first glimpse of the Cabane de Susanfe

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Sensational Siblings

We who have siblings can consider ourselves lucky. If our parents were wise enough not to foster competition and jealousy among their children we have one (or several) close friend(s), with whom we share innumerable memories from our childhood years.
Some of us always had somebody around to play with when we were small or to talk to when puberty struck us. In other cases, as in mine, becoming really close came later. As young adults my brothers and I discovered lots of similarities, common likings and interests and today the moments we meet are very precious.
Alas, as we live far apart we do not see each other very often. There were times when several years passed between our reunions. We would come together with our families and there were only few moments for peaceful talking with my brothers.
Some years ago we decided to meet just the three of us. We went hiking in the beautiful Österlen region in southern Sweden and stayed over at the Vitemölla Badhotell. Our mother had passed on her great interest in good food to us and we deeply enjoyed the excellent meal, served with good wine at that lovely hotel.
Last weekend we repeated that experience, this time in the Stockholm archipelago. We took the ferry to Finnhamn, a natural reserve three hours away from the bustling city and spent a wonderful weekend on this tranquil, beautiful little island. Good meals at the local restaurant, a very nice three hour hike around the island, and a night with excellent sleep in a little wooden cabin.
If you have brothers and/or sisters and somehow take them for granted: dig deeper! Get in touch more often – call them, send emails or WhatsUp messages (it’s so easy nowadays!) and meet as often as you can. Your siblings are a gift of life, which it would be sad not to appreciate. The older you get, the more precious it is to share a common history.

…and the weather was stunning, too!

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Courgette Craze

Now is the season of courgettes, at least where I live. My plant has given me a couple of small fruits (according to the botanical the courgette is a fruit!), but my friends with bigger veggie gardens have had enormous ones, weighing over 2 kg. They are all very generous people and I have passed some weeks doing a courgette diet: courgette soup, Turkish courgette patties (link 1), fried courgette with garlic, and curry-pickled courgette.
Recently I felt like trying a courgette quiche. I searched the Internet, found some interesting vegan recipes and made my own version of them. A little experiment that turned out a big success: my dinner guests were enchanted! It takes a little time to prepare, but is well worth the trouble.

Quiche aux courgettes
•2 dl wholegrain flour
•1 ½ dl wheat flour
•1 Tsp. salt
•1 pinch of fenugreek, toasted and mortared (if you like)
•¾ dl rapeseed oil
•½ dl water

•1/2 dl olive oil
•½ dl fresh basil, chopped
•1 garlic clove, pressed

•2 dl cashew nuts
•1/2 dl nutritional yeast
•1 Tsp. salt

•800 g courgettes
•1 dl pickled sundried tomatoes
•a bunch of spring onions, chopped
•salt & pepper

•Mix flour, salt and fenugreek in a bowl. Then add the oil, mix well with a spoon and after that mix in the water. Make a ball of the dough and let it rest in the fridge for some hours.
•Roll out the dough thinly, brush a pie tin with oil and put the dough into it. Cover with a kitchen towel and let it rest in the fridge another 15 min.
•Pulse the cashew nuts in a mixer until they are powdered, add nutritional yeast and salt and mix well.
•Bake the piecrust at 200 °C for 10–15 min.
•Squeeze out as much oil as possible from the pickled tomatoes and chop them.
•Grate the courgette coarsely, and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.
•Mix garlic, basil, olive oil salt and pepper in a small bowl and brush the baked, and somewhat cooled off, piecrust with it.
•Spread out half of the cashew mix over the crust, add grated courgette, tomatoes and spring onions. Place one more layer of cashew mix, and the last layer should be grated courgette. Drizzle olive oil over it all, season with salt and pepper and put it into the oven.
•Bake the quiche in 220°C for approx. 30 min, then raise the temperature to max and leave it for another 10 min, until it gets a nice colour. When cooled off a bit, garnish with
fresh basil. Enjoy!

Seasonal cooking rules!

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No Blog Post

No blog post this week, too busy enjoying the best visit ever!

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A Small New World

It find it exciting that I still meet new people up here in my little village with its 263 inhabitants, especially when they’re avid hikers and nature lovers like me ☺ Recently I made the acquaintance of Valérie, and some days ago we went up over 2.000m to pick arnica flowers for an oil infusion.
We did not only have a wonderful hike, find enough flowers to fill her jar and spend a lovely day in the mountains, but it was also the moment of a Great Revelation – Valérie’s clip-on cell phone magnifier! It works like a good macro lens and I was stunned when she showed me the photo possibilities it opened up. Suddenly I got infinitely close to a seemingly ordinary butterfly and discovered how it was all furry in vivid pink and green. A tiny, shimmering beetle turned out to be all dotted and the mullein flower suddenly revealed its intricate pattern of stalks and pistils.
These days I think thrice before buying any gadgets, but this loupe passed the test. Some days later I went to the city, bought it as a little gift to myself and felt like a kid at Christmas: the rest of that day was spent with this wonderful new present! I had a closer peek at flowers, insects, trees – anything that didn’t move too much! However, it became clear how difficult it was to get that close up, how shaky my hands actually are and
how much practice I still need.
This little device really opened up a whole new world to me – it’s like I get a completely different relationship to the objects of my close-up photos. Suddenly a bumblebee feels like a fluffy little friend, and the center of a flower as the amazing piece of art that it is. Even more than before, I realize that Nature is the greatest artist of them all and that even the tiniest part of it is noting less than a miracle. I am so immensely grateful to be alive among all this beauty.

I cant even tell what butterfly it is…💗💚

Shimmering like a jewel

The inner life of a mullein flower

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Apricot Abundance

Valais, the canton where I live, is the third largest canton of Switzerland and the sunniest part of the country. It is the country’s most important wine producer and famous
for its apricots.
Apricots originally came from China and arrived in Europe via Persia and Armenia – that’s why they’re called prunus armeniaca in Latin. In Switzerland they were first mentioned in documents from 1851. Since then they have been extensively cultivated in the Rhône valley. For a long time the variety luizet was the most common one, but nowadays there are at least 30 different varieties that can be harvested all through the summer, which is long and sunny here!
However, apricots don’t just grow down in the Rhône valley, but also up in my mountain village at 1.350m. My neighbours have a big and beautiful apricot tree and thanks to them I can enjoy this wonderfully zesty but still sweet fruit in abundance.
I’ve made apricot jam, two different kinds of apricot chutney and recently I composed a really nice lunch salad with apricots by the Swedish motto “man tager vad man haver” (use what you have at home).

Rice Salad with Apricots
For 1 person
2 dl of cooked rice, or couscous, bulgur etc.
3 ripe apricots (or one big peach/nectarine)
1 dl fresh basil leaves
½ dl fresh peppermint leaves
½ dl roughly chopped walnuts
1 Tsp. grated lemon zest
Salt & pepper
A dash of some good organic oil, I used walnut oil

• Cook whatever you like as a base. I used wholegrain rice.
• Dice the apricots and add them to the rice.
• Chop basil and mint leaves finely and add them as well.
• Stir in the lemon zest, salt, and pepper.
• Sprinkle over the oil of your choice

This salad combines tangy and sweet elements, herbal freshness, has a spicy note and is just perfect on hot summer days.

Lunch pleasure in my garden 🍑

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Golden Marigold II

During three weeks the little jar with marigold petals in sesame oil held its sunny space in my bookshelf. Then I carefully poured its contents through a small-meshed sieve to eliminate the petals. My calendula oil was ready!
This herbal oil has a wonderful, fresh and lemony scent and rich, warm yellow colour. I save most of it in a dark glass bottle for the winter to come. You can read about the qualities of calendula oil in my Golden Marigold I blog post.

Some of the oil, however, went into a calendula cream. I love using home made and local ingredients and the beeswax stems from my friend Sylviane’s beehive, beautifully placed above our village church.

Here’s the recipe for the calendula cream:

• 20 g beeswax
• 20 g shea butter
• 40 g calendula oil
• 5 drops of essential oil of your choice (I used rosemary, since it works as a natural preservative)

How to proceed:
• Melt the beeswax and shea butter in a water-bath.
• When they’ve melted, add the differenet oils and mix well
• Fill the liquid into in a small, well-cleaned glass jar, and let it cool off/harden.

Since there is no preserving agent in this cream, it should be kept in the refrigerator, and only handled with perfectly clean hands or a spatula.
The calendula cream has a rich and fatty texture and is very nourishing. Calendula is especially beneficial for dry or damaged skin and also promotes the fast healing and regeneration of the skin thanks to its anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties.
I feel that this yellow goodness also holds a part of my summer and every time I use it I spread some sunshine on my skin!

All that yellow makes me happy!💛

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Barelegged Summer Bliss

During my childhood in Småland, Sweden, there were two sure indicators that summer had arrived (since weather in Sweden was not always a reliable one): strawberries were ripe and us children would run around with bare legs. Never mind if it was 10 or 30 C outside; we really enjoyed the freedom feeling of wearing shorts and skirts without stockings, always having the fresh air on our legs and naked feet in our clogs or sandals.
As an adult living in the countryside I enjoy the same thing: from May until September – summer is longer here – it’s Bare Leg Time. In shorts, skirts or dresses I enjoy the warmth of the sun and sometimes a cooler summer breeze on my legs. It makes me feel just as free and unconcerned, energized and curious as way back during my childhood summer vacations when I had an eternity to fill with play and laughter, mosquito bites
and dripping ice cream.
Today I fill that eternity with other things. Thank goodness we have no mosquitos up here, but lots of crickets making that very special summer sound (especially at night). I play a little less, instead I enjoy going on endless hikes on higher altitudes or spending whole days in my garden. I eat less ice cream, but more fruit: fresh apricots from the Rhône plain, or raspberries and wild strawberries from my garden. This summer fruit is growing abundantly and I discovered how utterly delicious the wild cherries are! They don’t have much pulp so you have to fill your mouth with a whole handful of them to get the taste. Then you must chew carefully not to bite off bits of your teeth with the pits and afterwards you can make a competition on who spits his pits the farthest!
Sometimes I get nostalgic, buy an ice cream cone (no longer with strawberry, but mocha flavour), sit down on a sun drenched wooden bench and close my eyes. I lick my ice cream, get some of it dripping on my bare legs, and feel like eight years again…
What brings out that special (childhood) summer feelings for you?

Endless summer hikes…💚

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Days & Nights in Nature

During summer I’d like to spend my whole life outdoors. Due to electricity and water some things have to be handled in the house, though, like cooking and washing. However, almost any other activity be moved outdoors! Even ironing: with a long extension cord I’m now happily ironing shirts & tablecloths with a view over the mountaintops.
The one thing I still had not tried out was sleeping outdoors. In the beginning of this summer weather up here was a bit unstable, so I had to wait quite a while until I could test-sleep in my garden. The moon had to be in its declining phase, too, but finally I
found a suitable night.
On the little balcony of my garden shed I rolled out a self-inflatable camping mat and my sleeping bag, but got my normal cushion to rest my head on. Next to me I placed my watch and a little battery torch, “just in case”.
At eleven I adjusted in the sleeping bag, on my back to watch the stars. Unfortunately it’s not pitch dark around the house (street lights), but I could still see hundreds of them looking down at me. A fresh evening breeze caressed my face and made the leaves rustle. Birds were flying above me and some of them sang softly. I dozed off…
… waking up from a hoarse sound close to me. The incredible Mr. Fox! Nothing to be afraid of, but still an odd feeling to have him sneaking around just a few inches away.
I dozed off again…
… waking up from scratching sounds nearby. There’s some firewood piled up underneath the balcony, and I guess there was a mouse, a marten or a badger, all of them being regular visitors here. Before I fell asleep again I smiled to the night: despite the interruptions it felt grand to sleep outside, being surrounded by bewitching night sounds and
fresh mountain air.
When I woke up again it was 5 o’clock in the morning. I had actually slept for a few hours on a row, not bad for the first time outside! Even if it was a bit hard on my back and even if I woke up more often than usual I loved the experience. With the freshness of the night air, the stars above, the sounds of animals I really perceived myself as a part of nature. Next time I will sleep in a more remote corner of the garden, directly on the grass, without the shelter of a wall next to me. Let’s see how that feels… ☺

Days in nature – ironing with a view

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Golden Marigold I

Where I live, marigold is almost seen as a weed: it grows easily all over the place. However, unfortunately not everywhere: it didn’t use to grow in my garden, so I threw out some seeds and now it thrives here as well. I wanted this flower because of its bright yellow/orange colour, which fills me with sunshine and happiness, but then I learned that it’s actually also a medicinal herb. Calendula officinalis, the plant’s Latin name, indicates that it used to be sold in pharmacies; the specific epithet officinalis means ‘of the dispensary’ in Latin. Among other healing elements, it contains:
Allantoin – moisturising effect, promotes wound healing
Carotinoide – supports eye health, protects skin from environmental toxins
Saponine – enhances the immune system and lowers cholesterol.

Internally, prepared as marigold infusion, these flowers are helpful if you have digestion problems or infections. Proceed as follows:
• Cut off flower heads in the late morning, when the sun has dried the morning dew and the amount of essential oil is the highest.
• Let the flower heads dry on an old newspaper in a dark place
• When dry, put two to three flower heads in a cup
• Add 2,5 dl of boiling water, cover with a lid and let it steep for 10 min.

Lots of little suns in a bowl

The marigold’s main area of use is, however, external. It has germicidal and anti-inflammatory properties, softens and protects the skin and helps healing wounds. Here’s how I make calendula oil for external use:
• Cut off the flower heads from 30 marigolds (as described above)
• Remove petals, put them in a glass jar.
• Warm up 2 dl ecological oil (I used sesame) and pour it over the petals.
• Shake the jar for petals to sink down, and see to it that the oil covers them completely.
• Lid on and put it in a sunny place for 3-6 weeks.

Steeps in a sunny place (but indoors)

That’s all for this time: in around a month I will sieve off the petals and use parts of the oil for skin cream. If you want to know how that’s made, stay tuned! ☺

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