Gathering our friends and family, in May 2023 we embarked on a weekend of painting adventure, following the traditional Finnish "talkoot" approach. This Finnish tradition brings people together for a shared task, where work is intermingled with good humour, good food and of course good sauna in the evenings.

Punamulta ingredients

From storage to education centre

Our aim for the weekend was to paint our old, big barn/cow shed/sauna building from top to bottom. Our long-term goal is to transform this rustic space into educational space that will inspire and connect our community even further. Currently the course dining room is situated there, but the teaching takes place in a small space in the Biogas shed. The barn offers such possibilities, that the hard work taking it into good use seem reasonable.

The weekend started with cooking up the paint. Read more about that below! During the weekend, friends, neighbours and family rolled up their sleeves, picked up the brushes (first to brush the building of molds and dust, and then to paint), and brought life back to the weathered barn walls. Laughter and conversations filled the air as we worked diligently, restoring the barn back to its former glory.

The work took a sudden end, though, as the paint ran out when we were halfway done. The weekend had also passed faster than expected, so we packed our brushes on Sunday afternoon and ordered some new ochre pigments. They arrived on time for the next weekend, and the show could continue!

The story of ”Sweden red”

When it comes to traditional Scandinavian barns, the vibrant hue of red ochre, in Finnish "punamulta" or ”Sweden red” as the Germans call it, holds a special place in our hearts. This rich red color has long been associated with Swedish and Finnish rural architecture, adding a touch of charm and authenticity to farm buildings. As our barn was already painted with it back in the day, it was a no-brainer to use this natural, poisonless paint again this time around.

There are two common hues of this red ochre: the warmer, slightly orange-toned Italian tone, and the darker Falun (or Extra). Because of a happy accident, our tone was a 50/50 mix of these two, and it worked out amazingly! The barn was originally painted with Falun, it seems, but the warmer tone that Italian brings makes the tone especially beautiful and radiant!

How to make "punamulta" paint

We cooked up our own paint. This is a recipe for one batch, about 60 litres of paint, which we did two times. The painted area was about 300 m2 of very dry, almost paintless, grey wood.

Ingredients needed:

  • 50l of water
  • 2 kg iron sulphate
  • 4 kg of rye flour
  • 10 kg of pigment
  • 2 l of varnish
  • 150 g sodium benzoate


  • Mix rye flour with approx. 10 litres of cold water
  • Pour 40 litres of water into the cooking pot
  • Heat the water to almost boiling
  • Add iron sulphate
  • When the sulphate water is almost boiling, add the flour-and-water mix. Stir thoroughly. Leave to simmer for an hour stirring occasionally.
  • Add the varnish and stir thoroughly. Leave to infuse for about 15 min.
  • Add the colour pigment, stirring vigorously. If desired, add a preservative to the paint.
  • Simmer for at least another hour.
  • Allow the paint to cool slightly and stir thoroughly before starting to paint.

The recipe can be found in Finnish at Kymin Palokärki.

We bought the pigments and speciality ingredients from Kymin Palokärki for the first batch, and as they were sold out for the next weekend, we used Vanha Viljami. The varnish came from Motonet and the organic rye flour from good old S-Market.

The paint was rather runny, which we wondered about first, but it was indeed important for it to be runny so that it could be painted more easily. As the paint cooled, it got firmer. We added water accordingly to keep the paintable consistency over the weekend.

Having fun painting

A heartfelt thanks!

On Sunday on the second weekend the work was finally done. The main part of the building was painted, from top to bottom! Only the window frames would need to be painted white, and the paint job would be done! It was really hard work, but looking at the building it was so worth it.

We not only revived the barn's appearance and enable it to stand the weather for some decades more, but also strengthened the bonds within our community. With heartfelt gratitude, we extend our thanks to our neighbours, friends and family who joined us on this colorful adventure. We also thank Luopioisten Säästöpankkisäätiö for their help!

Next year we need to see if we can fix and replace the eaves boards of the building..!