Estonian Linens and Scents : Snowbird Family Farm

NB: The Snowbird Family Farm is now called Firera Home.

I met Maria of The Snowbird Family Farm via that sometimes praised and sometimes maligned invention called the Instagram hashtag. One day I decided to search for #kama. Kama is one of my favorite things to eat for breakfast or whenever I want a light but filling snack. It’s a cereal powder of malted and toasted grains that in Estonia finds its way into everything, from kefir shakes to chocolate bars. Kama has a delicately smoky, nutty flavor, and I love it mixed into yogurt and topped with honey. It softens, while retaining its pleasing granular texture.

As I discovered in my #kama search, chocolate and ice cream is not the limit, and kama can even be used in soap. A small artisanal outfit Pääsukese talu, which means the ‘Swallow Farm’ in Estonian, made delicious looking blocks of organic soap with kama. Maria, the genie behind the enterprise, assured me that it will exfoliate the skin, and I placed an order for 10 soaps. Since Maria was at that point trying new directions, she soon stopped making soap and instead focused on traditional Estonian linen weaving, a big passion of her mother’s. Eventually they added ceramics from local studios, and that’s how Snowbird Family Farm was born.

It’s been a pleasure to follow the development of this artisanal company located in southern Estonia, seeing it grow based on someone’s interest and acquire identity and distinctive style. Once Maria switched to linens, I was tempted by the beautiful fabrics in colors of oyster shells and lavender ash. The fabrics come in different weights and textures. The gray waffle face towels I bought most recently are thin and fast-drying, while the medium weight of the kitchen towels makes them perfect for lining a bread basket or holding hot dishes. Some towels come with the handmade lace, and it’s a charming touch.

The Snowbird Family Farm is about family and local traditions. Maria and her partner learned soap making in Spain, where they were doing volunteer work in 2014, but since returning home, they’ve tried to incorporate elements to make their creations personal and to reflect Estonian culture.  I visited Estonia once, and I enjoyed the mellow beauty of its countryside, the scent of its wet forests, and the musky, sweet flavor of the local rye bread. I was glad to reminisce about it, as I chatted with Maria about her artisanal business, Estonia, scents, and linens.

On Estonian Scents

“One of my favorite places in Estonia is a hiking trail in Soomaa National Park, called Hüpassaare. It’s a trail that winds through peaceful and mystical forests and meadows to the Kuresoo bog. The earthy, wet and green scent of the spruce trees, ferns and moss disappears when you reach the bog, and the purest air fills your lungs with peace. When you visit the bog at the right time, you’ll immediately notice the powerful and provocative scent of Labrador Tea, or Bog Tea. In the summer and in the fall, you will be able to enjoy cloudberries and cranberries. You will also find little bright green leaves of wood sorrel. Their taste is very Estonian to me and reminds me of my childhood – every time we went to the countryside with my grandmother, we had to walk from the bus stop through the forest and we used to enjoy eating the little sour leaves on the way.”

On the Pleasures of Handmade Things

“Handicraft and the skills required to create it have been admired in our family for generations. My mother was taught by her grandmother, and to this day we have many beautiful items made up to a 100 years ago by the women in our family. All of the towels, table linen, and bed linen are made of linen fabric and decorated with embroidery or handmade lace. We make our products from a 100% linen fabric too, and some of the towels also have lace trim. Our products are made in small quantities, meaning that we have enough time for each one to truly make them with love and care.”

“We are currently focused on making linen textiles. We appreciate this natural material and it’s unique properties so much, that we wish to share the love for linen with others too.”

On Living in the Countryside

“Living in the countryside has made me more sensitive and more interested in environmental topics. For instance, making natural soaps for me is part of a lifestyle that cares about the people, the animals and the world around me.” Maria mentions that she has plans to resume making soaps next year.

On Unforgettable Travel Experiences

“I have a lot of great memories in Southern Estonia, as I grew up in a small town called Võru. The surrounding areas have so much natural beauty – rolling hills, lakes, old farmhouses, dense forests, countless hiking trails and so on! Hiring a car, traveling through villages, stopping at natural sights, spending the night in a guesthouse in the countryside and trying out Estonian sauna would be one of my suggestions!”

On Estonian National Parks

“There are a lot of national parks in Estonia, but one of my favorites is certainly Soomaa National Park. It has large peat bogs, forests, rivers, and floodplains. In spring, the floods can raise the water levels in rivers as much as five meters, and as a result, many trails, roads, and even households can only be reached by boat. The locals call this time of the year the fifth season. It is a wonderful time to visit the national park, for example by booking a guided canoe trip.”

On Estonian Flavors

“If you are in Estonia in the summer, make sure to try fried chanterelles with new potatoes. Summer is the best time to visit Estonia if you are looking for culinary experiences. You will find the best food from the forest – tens of different kinds of mushrooms and our wild berries, and vegetables and herbs from the locals’ gardens. For me, the most incredible scents and tastes come from the nature around me.”

“Whenever I am away for longer periods of time, I always miss Estonian black bread. There are so many varieties, I recommend buying it from bakeries or having some in restaurants. My favorite store-bought bread is called Muhu leib, it originates from the tiny Muhu island and tastes amazing.”

“Also, we have a special flour mixture called kama, that is traditionally made of rye, barley, wheat, oat and pea flours. It is used in desserts and drinks, for example, mixed with whipped cream or kefir. I sometimes add kama to my smoothies, it adds a unique taste that is worth trying for!”

Since I’m also a fan of kama, I can’t agree more with Maria’s recommendation. To Maria’s list of Estonian foods, I will also add cloudberry jam. When fresh, this berry has a delicate flavor, but when cooked it becomes bolder, developing hints of mango and cardamom. If you’re in Tallinn and spot dill ice cream on the menu, don’t hesitate. The anise-like flavor of dill paired with vanilla was one of my favorite discoveries during my stay in Estonia.

The Snowbird Family Farm has an Etsy shop for international orders. The link is: https://www.etsy.com/shop/SnowbirdFamilyFarm. They ship worldwide. Also, do take a look at Maria’s gorgeous Instagram.

Those who read Estonian can take a look at their main website called Paasukesetalu.

Photography by Bois de Jasmin

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45 Comments

  • Jennifer: Looks pretty! I want to visit Estonia. February 19, 2018 at 8:09am Reply

    • Victoria: I can’t recommend it highly enough! February 19, 2018 at 10:48am Reply

  • Maria: Thanks Victoria and Maria! What a surprise to discover that you can also find Labrador tea in Estonia. We have it also in North Quebec. I like its astringent taste and smell.
    I’ve discovered cloudberries jam in Finland and the only place where I can find it now is that “sometimes praised and sometimes maligned invention called” Ikea 😉 February 19, 2018 at 8:41am Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, I’ve never tried Labrador tea. The one type I bought in Tallinn was a blue mallow tea that makes for an aquamarine colored tisane. February 19, 2018 at 10:48am Reply

  • Audrey: Gosh, those blue linens are gorgeous. Thank you for highlighting artisans on your blog. Things made with love are precious. February 19, 2018 at 10:14am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s my pleasure to write about such unique things. February 19, 2018 at 10:47am Reply

  • Susan: I love the handmade linen – so beautiful, but when I went to Etsy, they say they cannot be shipped to the U.S. Just wanted to let you know. Thanks for opening our eyes to so much beauty and scent, books, and teas and more! February 19, 2018 at 10:21am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s just a mistake, since they definitely ship to the US. I alerted Maria to fix it.

      Thank you for your kind words. February 19, 2018 at 10:46am Reply

  • Susan: Thank you, Victoria! I’ll check back in a day or two. I’m excited to own something so lovely and useful at the same time. February 19, 2018 at 12:03pm Reply

    • Victoria: I really believe that everyday objects are the ones that need to be special. Hope that you find something you like. February 20, 2018 at 2:47pm Reply

  • sara levy: Oh this was so lovely to read! Now I want to revisit Estonia. One of my favorite places! I recently had cloudberry liqueur (Lakka) on vanilla ice cream. What a treat! February 19, 2018 at 12:37pm Reply

    • Emilie: Ooh that sounds lovely. I love a boozy ice cream combination! Very intrigued by that dill ice cream too… February 19, 2018 at 5:27pm Reply

      • Victoria: It was served over a plum tart, and the combination is really wonderful. February 20, 2018 at 2:53pm Reply

        • Emilie: They sound like they would be delicious together. I wonder if the Vana Tallinn liqueur would work over ice cream a la an affogato? Maybe not with dill ice cream though 😉 February 20, 2018 at 7:23pm Reply

          • Victoria: I can confirm that it’s delicious that way. I tried it on vanilla ice cream and coffee granita. February 21, 2018 at 4:00am Reply

    • Victoria: Vana Tallinn liqueur with black coffee is my other favorite Estonian treat. The liqueur is too sweet on its own, but it has such a rich perfume. February 20, 2018 at 2:48pm Reply

  • RVB: As I’m in Tallinn right now I’ll have to seek all these things out! And I second the mention of Estonian black bread.It’s absolutely divine.My favorite is from the bakery Rukis which is part of a delicious restaurant called Farm.I usually cram a few loaves in my suitcase to take home with me.There’s nothing like it in the US.Great and informative article Victoria! 😀 February 19, 2018 at 12:43pm Reply

    • Victoria: I really love the bread at Sfaar, and whenever I have friends visiting Tallinn, I ask them to bring me back a loaf or two.

      By the way, I had that dill ice cream at Pegasus (1, Harju Street) in Tallinn. February 20, 2018 at 2:51pm Reply

  • Susan: I was able to order the linen towels – thank you so much for your help, Victoria. I’m sure I will love them. February 19, 2018 at 2:13pm Reply

    • Victoria: Oh, wonderful! I hope that you enjoy them. Which towels did you get? February 20, 2018 at 2:52pm Reply

  • Emilie: What a beautiful and evocative post. Thank you Victoria and Maria. I loved Maria’s description of the Estonian countryside – it’s now given me a bit of a wanderlust for this part of the world I knew very little about!

    How special to have items that were made in your family a hundred years ago. That is a very unique connection with a personal past. Also how wonderful to still have the skills to make such wonderful crafts! February 19, 2018 at 5:07pm Reply

    • Victoria: Same here. It made me want to visit it. Maria’s Instagram is beautiful, and I love her photos of the countryside.

      Such traditions are precious, so I can’t agree with you more. February 20, 2018 at 2:53pm Reply

  • Peppermoon: Have you tried Mona Di Orio Suede de Suede? It apparently has a cloudberry note February 20, 2018 at 9:11am Reply

    • Victoria: I have, but it’s been a while. I’m now curious if I can pick out anything cloudberry-like out of that perfume. February 20, 2018 at 2:55pm Reply

  • Susan: I got the blue linen and the striped linen kitchen towels – just can’t wait to feel the fabric and enjoy the handmade treasure. Thanks! February 20, 2018 at 4:14pm Reply

    • Victoria: I also liked the striped towels. The linen Maria’s farm uses reminds me of the fine linen my great-great-grandmother used to weave. We have only a few pieces left, and I use them as face towels. February 21, 2018 at 3:59am Reply

  • Silvermoon: Enjoyed reading about Estonia in this post. Many thanks Victoria and Maria. I was very intrigued by cloudberry jam. Never heard about this fruit before and will try to find some. And the dill vanilla ice cream certainly looks/sounds yummy, especially along with plum tart.

    Linen is my absolute favourite fabric and the linen towels look lovely. In summer, I always try to wear linen whenever possible – shirts, T-shirts, trousers, skirts, etc. – and in winter, I sometimes wear a linen shirt under a jumper or cardigan. And EL White Linen is a perfume I really enjoy too, especially in summer. February 22, 2018 at 4:50pm Reply

    • Victoria: Cloudberries look like yellow raspberries, but they are juicier and the seeds have a nicer flavor. Fresh cloudberries in season are such a treat. One of the best things to eat in Estonia. I really wish there was an online grocery store offering things from Estonia like rye bread, kama, or cloudberry jam. February 23, 2018 at 7:40am Reply

      • Silvermoon: Oh, I love raspberries, so this makes them even more interesting. Maybe a local East European supermarket (there are amany in north east UK) will stock them. There are big Latvian, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Polish, etc populations around, not sure about Estonians though (one rarely comes across them). Anyway, will check for the jam at least. February 24, 2018 at 5:05am Reply

        • Victoria: Your best bet would be the Finnish or Russian shops, since none of the other countries are north enough to have cloudberries. They’re called “moroshka” in Russian, by the way. Kama is available in the Finnish stores as “talkkuna” and in the Russian shops as “tolokno.” I prefer the Finnish and Estonian varieties, because they use several different grains, while the Russian tolokno is made only of oats. But it’s also delicious with kefir and yogurt. February 26, 2018 at 10:57am Reply

          • Silvermoon: Thanks, Victoria. I shall check the Russian shops for the moroshka. It’s always fun to learn about something new. February 26, 2018 at 5:19pm Reply

  • Sandra: Any place to buy those soaps your mentioned or something similar? February 23, 2018 at 10:47am Reply

    • Victoria: Maria’s were pretty unique. She might revisit it again. She also had wonderful calendula scented soaps. February 23, 2018 at 5:15pm Reply

  • Aurora: These beautiful towels remind me of Irish linen, and I enjoyed this tour of Estonia with Maria and the, kama and dill ice are new to me and sound so tempting, thank you, Victoria. February 24, 2018 at 1:22pm Reply

  • Doreen: I love hearing about beauty created from inspiration of living close with the earth. Cloudberry!!!! I never heard of this. The name inspires… February 25, 2018 at 8:15am Reply

    • Victoria: It’s as delicate as the name makes it seem. February 26, 2018 at 11:00am Reply

  • Inma: What a beautiful post and linen!
    Also, it has made feel like visiting Estonia.
    Thank you! February 26, 2018 at 7:03am Reply

    • Victoria: I’m happy to hear it! Thank you. February 26, 2018 at 11:01am Reply

  • faith: well i wished i had not seen that etsy shop. i’m totally addicted to linen. beautiful work and more than reasonable prices. February 26, 2018 at 4:35pm Reply

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