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Autumn leaves were covered in the first snow in Helsinki on October 27, 2017. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

October was the month of getting ready for winter, not just misty mornings and the leaves falling. Since moving to Espoo five years ago I have got into a routine each autumn, and living this far north it is best to be prepared.

One of my favorite things in Finland is talkoot, where neighbors get together for tending the communal gardens and yards. Our group of houses organizes one in spring and autumn.  A Saturday in October we will be all sweeping up leaves, raking lawns and trimming hedges. There are some keen gardeners amongst us and over the summer the compost heap and clippings pile usually gets to overflowing, so one of the biggest jobs will be to carry it all to the skip that’s hired to take away all the bio-matter for recycling. Usually, all the tasks are complete by lunchtime so then talkoot becomes an excuse to grill sausages, have a few beers and get to know the neighbors. Talkoot really saves us all higher service charges and we get the opportunity to shape how the neighborhood looks.

[alert type=white ]Talkoot really saves us all higher service charges and we get the opportunity to shape how the neighborhood looks.[/alert]

The winter preparations in October surely include plenty of tasks. Hopefully, it will have been dry enough for the lawn to be cut for the last time and the mower safely stowed away.  Items vulnerable to frost were brought inside. The hosepipe, water pumps and related devices drained and put away.  One winter I left a trigger operated hosepipe watering gun out and the immense power of expansion, as the water froze, split the plastic in half making it useless the following spring.

A rummage in our outside storage shed was also needed to retrieve all my tools. Wood plane, chisels, saws and electrical hand tools need storing in a warm dry place because the outside winter temperatures fluctuate so much that any humidity turns to metal rusting moisture.

Maybe I am a little too organized because I have also swapped my wardrobe around.  Winter clothes stacked on lower shelves and summer shirts stashed away in a less accessible top cupboard only to remember that the winter boots were worn out. The only things left to do will be replacing a light bulb on the car that I noticed missing in the diminishing daylight, and change the wheels.

A winter view from our house in Espoo on October 26. Picture: Richard Bedhall

Summer 2016, I tried to grow some foxgloves from seed and germinated nearly 40 successfully, growing them on in plastic pots.  Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are biennial plants, that is, they grow the first season and flower the next.  To over winter, they were left in the protection of a mini polythene greenhouse that sat on our veranda resting against the house wall.  All of them were dead by spring after such a long winter but this summer in the garden, I did find one that germinated and has an over-winter spot inside the house.

[alert type=white ]Normally in November Christmas trees get planted along the sides of the back roads for guiding the snow plows. [/alert]

Then on October 26, it snowed all day, winter arrived early and for once the weather forecast was correct. Being prepared, I swapped the car tires the day before, not a moment too soon. This far north it is the law to have winter tires and much safer for driving. The City Council did not have time to clear all the piles of fallen leaves but I noticed that the bright colored markers to guide the snow plows were inserted into curbs. Normally in November Christmas trees get planted along the sides of the back roads for guiding the snow plows. When that happens, we know Christmas will soon be upon us.

[highlight color=#0000FF]How do you prepare for winter? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.[/highlight]