Freitag, 31. Januar 2014

day no. 14 - keeping up the speed

Erä-susi, - 34 °C (in the morning)  my new record!
I had my first solo-drive! Just me, a customer sitting in the sledge and the dogs. (...I have to admit that the obligatory snowmobile was running far in front of us for some safety issues. Anyway...) It was soooo fun! :) It was just a short distance about 5 km, but I am happy for the trust in me. It was just sooo fun and ended to fast! Even more, because I already know the dogs who ran for me and I enjoyed to be able to call them by their names to cheer them on.
Mr. Wolf was right: among the best things life can offer driving a Husky sledge is definitely among the top 5 directly followed by a nightly walk under the clear winterly sky. 

Trainees on tour ! (photo: Mirja/Erä-Susi Naturesafaris)

First driving experiences on the 2 km track a couple of days ago (photo: Mirja/Erä-Susi Naturesafaris)
 Since it was so cold today I was almost forced to put 3 jackets, 2 pair of gloves, a fleece skiing mask and a head on just for seemingly short trip. I laughed about when we started our run, but after some minutes I was really grateful to have all that stuff to cover myself.

Today once again I learned something new about the cold:

Don't wash your face in the morning or put creme/make-up on when you plan to brave the low temperature. Better don't even wash your face the night before. There is a simple reason for: Everything which contains liquid gets frozen immediately, even though you put it on your 'warm' skin. Staying outside for longer, especially riding a sledge or a snowmobile, the cold airstream cools down your skin so much that the humidity in your breath freezes on cheeks, eyelashes, ears and nose. Same happens with skin care products, since they contain liquids (water), too. The best protection is the natural greasy layer your skins produced in order to protect itself. Treating your skin with water and soap destroys the natural protection of your skin. In any case you can use cremes over night. 
When it is so cold you won't even feel the ice layer on your cheeks. It does not burn or hurt, it feels just cold. It's important to warm up the uncovered parts by laying on of hands in case they got frozen, but don't try to move your skin when it is still really cooled down. You can also put one of gloves over nose and mouth and respire in it. The warm of your breath will defrost your skin. The tricky thing about frostbites is, that you don't feel them until it is already too late as long as you stay outside. So I was insistently prodded to pay attention to that and to warn and check the customers, too. I found out that there are 3 categories of frostbites. The first grade one can handle without long-lasting effects. Your skin gets pale, which is actually the opposite of what you can normally see watching in peoples by the cold red coloured face. When you start warming the cold parts it starts burning as hell, but the now really red stain will heal soon. If get bitten by the frost even harder than your skin starts to blister, but the red blisters will vanish without leaving scars. In the third stadium the blisters can be even blue or black yet and they won't disappear without leaving ugly traces. It's actually not that easy to arrive in stadium 3, but since it hurts in any case I hardly recommend to beware frostbites.
The same with your feet-if they are so cold that you don't feel your toes anymore, even when you try to move them, then it is really time to warm up. If possible don't wait until you don't feel anything anymore. I would really discourage from that experience- it is quite a quite scary feeling and it hurts when you try to warm them up again.  
I learned by my own experience that the only material that keeps reliably your feet warm is wool. So get yourself some wool socks if you plan to stay out longer under conditions I experience in this days. Synthetic fibers don't keep really warm, not even in combination with wool socks.(Except this special high-tech. stuff thermal underwear is made of, but wool is still the best choice if you ask me.) 
Air is a good heat isolator, too. That's why your boots should be at least 1, better 2 shoe sizes bigger than your personal size. 
And the most important point at all: don't stop moving!

The teams on their waiting positions looking forward to leave. 
(photos: Mirja/Erä-Susi Naturesafaris)

Knowledge of the day: New challenges are an excellent motivation.
We don't sell Husky hides!(I was seriously ask if one may purchase a dog fur from us.) 

Donnerstag, 30. Januar 2014

day no.13 - time to say goodbye...

Erä-susi Huskyfarm, -25°C

Every working day starts with the smell of dogshit.This is my perception at least. The good point is in this climate zone everything which touches the ground get frozen quickly. Once turned to ice it is nearly odourless and the only thing that lasts is the admittedly unsavory appearance. But this is something one get used to soon. We clean the fences always in pairs: One breaks the dog poop with a spade out of the ice and snow and the other gather it up with a rake and a kind of big dustpan. Cleaning after the dogs is actually one of the nicest work of the day. Sounds a little awkward, but it is actually relaxing. One can switch off its brain and just do. while cleaning we check if the dogs are all ok. We ask them to leave their houses and greet us. Most of the dogs are waiting for us yet. They like our equipement- I guess it smells interesting- and it is the only moment of the time when there is minute to muck around with them and stay some extra minutes with ones favourite dogs. They are happy to get your attention and play, jump and watch intensively how we do with our cleaning tools. Some of the hairy darlings have the annoying habit to jump at my back while I'm showeling their shit. I'm standing yet in dog poop,still somebody wishes to kick me in my ass. :) 
I noticed that my teammembers have a tool they prefer: I'm definitely a 'spade-girl'. To break the frozen surface keeps me warm. Especially for really cold days I would always recommend the spade. But gathering up has the advantage that you can cuddle the dogs a little longer, because you have to wait until the 'ice-breaker' finishes. 
The fences are arranged along a corridor. On the right side live all the male dogs and the fences on the left side are inhabited by the females. I guess this division has a certain background. In any case it helps me a lot, because most of the names are so strange to me- I'm not able to identify the sex of a dog just by the sound of its name. 

But to come back to the topic, I noticed that my teammates seem to have also their favourite side when it comes to cleaning. Some girls tend to go straight to the female part. Meanwhile the most fast male ice-breaker always starts at the right side where the males live... Who knows why...
I was wondering a couple of days ago why the fences are so low. Today somebody mentioned that in summer they are over 2 meters tall. I totally forgot about the one important fact: The under part vanished in the snow we are walking on in this days. Furthermore I was told that it is soon about to become a problem, since the dogs actually get easily out of their fences. I'm curious when they will start to introduce countermeasures.

One of the girls I was living with for the last two weeks is about leave. She has been here for nearly 2 month and has become a valuable member. Most of the things I know yet I learned from her (that her English is better then the language skills of most of the others could be significant in this case, too). I will miss her. 
We had a nice conversation a couple of days ago about how she finished here at the Erä-susi farm. As a student of an outdoor-wilderness school that trains future wildlife guides she had to absolve an internship. I never heard about such a school in North- Germany. Probably because their is no need for. Despite of winter sports North-Finland has to offer friendly, cheerful company, sauna, beautiful landscapes, national parks and ...yeah.. that's it! A paradise for outdoor fans, who in any case need professional guides to enjoy the Finns' nature heritage without endangering it or themselves. She told me that most of the time the students learn the things they have to know in a practical way, which means: skiing, fishing, learning about flora and fauna sum up skills and knowledge one could need to survive out there and protect what the Finns' love-their nature! The awareness of where they live and what they live of is iindeed remarkable. I really love my home region and I would consider myself deeply connected to this place I call home. But according to my impression what the Finns' feel and do for their home is something which goes even deeper. They love what they do, but also because they have the 'privilege' to do it right here. It feels intense and authentic - this has nothing to do with ecological movements, alternative life style ideas etc. which seems to be a trend in Germany right now.It seems to be even nothing you have to loose a loads words about, but when they speak they speak about touched me!

But to come back to our conversation: Even more interesting and equally connected to our work at the huskyfarm is dealing with health issues of the dogs: she is a masseuse for dogs! I didn't even know that this a job. Basically she is a physiotherapist for dogs. She releases the dogs from tensions and muscular indurations attending the healing process of serious injuries, too. I got to know that it is actually a job you can survive with financially on condition that one lives (as she obviously does) in a region of this world where you can find a lot of working dogs. But with her skills she treats other animal patients  like f.e. horses from time to time, too. 
It's a pitty that I found out about her skills so late- I would have loved to learn a lot more about. 

Yesterday evening we had the pleasure to be guests of Mr. and Mrs. Wolf in order to say goodbye to our leaving team member and to be welcomed for those who just arrived here. I can't get used to the prices in Finland- everything is soooo expensive compared to what I'm used to. We had a really nice and cozy evening and I'm really grateful for their hospitality. Thanks to the great atmosphere among the people living and working here I feel already somehow at home.

Knowledge of the day: "Take less snow and more shit!" 
If you want to see the light, than look for the shadows. 

Mittwoch, 29. Januar 2014

day no. 11/12 - Lost in space

Erä-susi Huskyfarm, - 19°C sunshine pure
Daydreaming I left the 2 km track and wandered into the forest. I've never been there before. We followed one of the tracks. I took pictures and invited Miia to play with me. Miia is a fantastic old Lady. As one of the yet retired dogs she doesn't run anymore-She wouldn't be able to keep pace with the youngsters anymore. Nevertheless she still enjoys to move a little. So since I had a free day I took her to have a walk together after having trained the puppies. Miia is sweet, handsome, clever, for her age in perfect conditions and she has an astonishing orientation sense, unlike me. I got lost in the winter forest enjoying the sunlight and this beautiful landscape. Suddenly I recognized the silence, I couldn't hear the other dogs anymore. Their barking and howling have followed me into the woods even though soon I couldn't see them anymore.The trees covered with snow obscured my view. I looked around me and realized that the setting sun already coloured the white forest in shades of orange- Perkele, where the f...was I? Actually I don't not even know it now that I'm back home, but Miia knew. At first I told in English her to bring me home. I couldn't remember the right word for it in Finnish. My Finnish is still nearly not existent. So Miia just hold her head in a tilted positions and looked at me with a questioning expression in her cute dog face listening to my voice with perked ears-obviously her English was not that good. I had no cellphone, no map, no compass, no idea where I was... I started wondering about the traces a snowmobile left- according to my calculations it probably passed here yesterday. It did not snow over night and the traces did not look fresh...So how many time will pass until somebody passes here or starts wondering where I vanished...? :) 
I started walking in a random direction. Miia seemed to be confused. So I just let her lead. I tried every word that came to my mind to make her understand where I wanted her to go..."ruoka" (food), "talo" (house), "koppi" (doghouse)...Miia was still confused. "koti" ('to' home)...That worked! She started pulling me through the woods and seemed to be so secure about where to turn and which trail to follow that I decided to trust in her. Even though she does not run the tracks anymore she knows her surroundings. Miia brought me home where her "ruoka" was waiting for her yet. Mr. Wolf was amused.

my savior Miia 

Rike& Salsa

It was such a beautiful day today that I just couldn't resist to go out and use the great weather to train the puppies. Before they can run with the other dogs they have to get used to collar and harness. They have to learn to stand still while somebody is putting it on. And since they rarely leave their fences they have to learn not to be afraid of going beyond their personal territory and trust in whoever takes them out. Today I walked Paso and Salsa. They are siblings born in May 2013. The whelps of this litter are named after dances:there is Valssi, Jive, Rumba, Samba, Paso, Salsa..etc. The team starts whenever somebody has the time to prepare them slowly for the real training. They take them out for a walk on the 2 km track, the most used track at all.
 I really like this litter (not just because of the name 'Tanssi pennut')-all of the puppies are cheerful, friendly and playful dogs. Until they are in their fences all of them come directly to greet you and invite you to play. But it is a totally different story if they have to leave their home. Actually it is not that easy to get them out there without a little help. They are scared and don't know how to react. Once they left the fences they react differently. Paso started jumping and fight against the collar. Salsa was just totally scared. Paso already got how it works, but he is so excited that he overreacts, jumps, runs tangling in his leash. He is a brave boy, not afraid to leave the track even though that means often that he vanishes in snowbanks. He likes to play in the snow. Salsa is a little spooky. She needs a lot of time to check everything carefully. She is always walking 2 steps behind you, watching you and seeking for protection if she gets to see something new. But in the same time she is really curious, she wants to know everything and highly attentive she discovers bit by bit every meter of the track. She follows every little trace with her nose dipping it deeply into the snow until the whole snout is covered. It looks so cute!

Winter world

 Both of them need a calm person, a lot of support and encouraging words, but in different ways. Paso needs to be calmed down and shown patiently what he is supposed to do, while salsa needs to be encouraged to go forward by herself and trust in herself. The aim is obviously to take away from them the fear of leaving their fences and fence mates giving them in a playful way a good memory connected to equipment, trainer and track. Sounds easy, but requires a lot of patience and time. That's why we can't do that with 11 puppies everyday. 
Actually to get them the collar on and of wasn't a real problem. I just called them and invited them to stay with me. Cuddling them I calmed them down and after some minutes you can just put it over or take it away with a fast but unspectacular movement. Just do as a part of the game.The trick is not to make a big deal out of it.  

Lazy reindeers taking a sunbath
Knowledge of the day: Kylmä kahvi kaunistaa! (Cold coffee makes beautiful.)

Montag, 27. Januar 2014

day no. 10 - once again: snoooow!

Erä-susi Huskyfarm, -10 °C snowing

It got warmer! We already had 3 days with temperatures over -10 degrees. If you ask me it’s already too warm. Once again I don’t know what to wear. My warm working clothes make me slow. A short sprint is enough to make me feel like if I just came out of sauna. I feel so warm and I sweat! Everyone has nice advices. Some of them are a bit strange to me. I slowly get used to just throw my jacket away…in January with meter deep snow hills wherever I gaze. I’ve been always told by my mum and grandma to cover myself; better to warm than to cold. "The cold is dangerous, you know you just get sick…" I heard often their voices in my head in the last days. But now I tell my mum's voice in my head to just shut up! I just throw my jacket and my gloves away, because -6°C is just too warm. Actually it is not the cold per se which is dangerous. Nobody dies just because of feeling a little cold, but if you sweat and stay out in the icy wind than you might get ill seriously. 
Even when it was really bloody cold, I loved it! The biting cold, the clear air…gone. I hope it will change again soon. The dogs already start to change their fur and I'm less hungry. I guess I don' t need so much energy anymore. Might be because of the warmer weather or because I learned how to my work in an effective way without moving more than necessary.

With the warmer temperature the snow came. It was snowing the whole day long. The pure, fluffy new snow covers everything like a white blanket and the fences look more clean, too, even though dogs usually not shit less just because it snows. They like the snow. I've seen the puppies rampaging in the snow scattering the snowdrifts in all corners having a lot of fun. But the fresh snow is tricky, too. I have problems to recognize the tracks. Everything is so slippery and since I hardly see where our trails run, it happens quite often to me that I just vanish next to the trail in the deep snow. 

That's how a serious winter looks like...

New snow is a challenge for the sledging dogs,too. Whoever tried to run through the high snow will confirm that it is an quite strenuous activity. A good leader knows how to differ between safe trail and deep snowbank. He or she will guide the sledge safely around tricky passages. That's why a good leader is admired and hard to find. It requires a lot of experience, a good intuition and trust on both sides. Huskies don't just run in the same way for everyone. If the dogs admires and trust you as you do, it has clearly noticeable effects on the performance and attitude of the dog. Sledging is just teamwork. If the dogs do not respect and trust in you in the wilderness you won' t get anywhere...

Bruises, lumps, scratches and aching muscles are part and parcel of working on a huskyfarm... like cold feet.
Especially for tall people cleaning the fences or feeding the dogs can be a real challenge. The fences reach just my shoulder heigh or sometimes they are just a little higher. The huskies are actually smaller than I expected, but still they could get out of there easily.
I've seen them climbing the fences and on youtube you can find a lot of videos that show how clever they are. They seems to be proper escape artists. At least when they got bored they can be really inventive. Probably that's why there is no need to make the fences higher. If they really want to break free, they will find a way to get out, no matter how tall or low their fence is. 
The fences are framed by stable wooden construction which withstand the weigh of snow and ice and the jumping huskies longing for food. Every fence is a little bit different and offers nice possibilities to hit my head on the beams. It happens to me at least 10 times a day. I just can' t get used to it...-.-

Knowledge of the day: I'm already addicted to Mr. Wolf's little wolfs. Huskies are amazing dogs. But I realize that,even if they are such  handsome, admirably tender and playful dogs, they are born to work, they need to run! Born outside,living outside, they will die outside...and that's the best life you can offer them at all! 

day no. 8/9 - I want to break free

Erä-susi Huskiyfarm, -6°C snow in the summer..?

Well…where shall I begin? Some busy days lay behind me. Information overload…So than let’s start from the very beginning:

After a for me sleepless night we started yesterday (25.01) at 8 o’ clock with watering the dogs. They are given water enriched with a little bit of meat every 2nd or 3rd day depending on the temperature. When it’s warmer like in these days they need more than on cold days. Afterwards they have to stay calm for at least 2 hours. If we would harness them immediately and let them work they stomachs would probably rebel. So the first thing which is done on a ‘water-day’ is to serve them their drink. Then we start cleaning the cages and feed reindeers. Watering and cleaning takes about 2 hours if you have a team of 6-8 people.
That day we had to prepare 8 sleighs for 15 customers who booked a 20 km trip. When they were about to come back we already started to prepare the next 54 dogs, dealing at the same time with the other 48 arriving dogs. It was just wow! Harnessing dogs is quite stressy. They are really excited, jump around and most of them would start run as soon as you open the cage doors even without the harness and sledge. They are unstoppable, if you let them. Especially the bigger ones have no problem with jerking you; they are really strong and can’t wait at all. These dogs have a lot of power, even the smaller ones! When you have chosen the right dog, got it finally out of its fence without freeing its cage mates, too, found a fitting harness and identified its place in the team, then you have to clamp it on its place in front of the sledge. I guess there might be a certain technique or just a lot of practice to not be totally exhausted after just 3 dogs…It seems that I’m actually the only one who is kind of really shattered afterwards. I’m always happy when they finally start running and I can take breath. It’s obvious that I really need to learn all the names. If you just have to get them out of their fences it is quite ok, because some clever guy had nailed boards with the names of the inhabitants over door of each fence. But it becomes much more complicated when I have to put the dogs back after their run. Unfortunately the dogs don’t speak to me telling me their names and their cage. I still need help, but it gets better day by day. My teammates help me out and show me the right dog and the fitting house, but it doesn’t work out always really well, because the dogs are sooo loud that nobody understands anything-no matter if spoken in Finnish, English or even German. Most of the times I just guess…

That's how happy dogs look like!

The dogs are perfectly matched in their teams. Every team consists of 6 dogs clamped in couples at 3 points on a metallic wire pulling one sledge together.  The strongest dogs are situated in the back directly in front of the sledge. They have to do most of the work. The couple in the middle keeps up the speed and the front couple leads. Not every dog is a born leader. Just the most clever, brave and assertive dogs can handle the front position. Nevertheless one team can have more than one leader pulling in another position, as far as all of them accept the leading dog in the front position as what he is: the leader. During the training in autumn the trainers figure out how it works best testing the dogs in different positions with different partners and integrating the puppies from the last year. The youngsters are trained by their human trainers, but they learn a lot from the older dogs, too. When the puppies are about half a year old they have to move out from their mother’s fence. According to their nature they get matched with older dogs. Shy puppies get a very brave, socializing fence mate and the more excited or nervous ones are coupled with a calm dog in order to tranquilize them a bit. The mother dog starts to run again about 2 month after she has given birth. Normally the litter is about 4-6 whelps.
The first safari was a nightmare: one epileptic seizure, a snowmobile which didn’t work as it was supposed to do, dogs giving up in middle of the track and had to be lifted in the sledge…But finally everyone arrived more or less save and sound.

In this whirl some dogs moved out. They were brought to the 250 km far Rokua, where the other farm is located. In these days it is the point of departure for 5-days Safaris.( I would give a lot for trying it myself! Unfortunately I could never afford a trip like this).That’s why some of the best teams were put in transport boxes which were already mounted on the pick-up truck and filled with straw. I guess a box is about 120 x 50 x 50 cm and has a hole at the front side to guarantee fresh air. The dogs put their noses through the holes when somebody passes-it looks so funny! They see their world with their noses…I’m not sure how good they actually see with their eyes. In any case their noses are fantastic. (I’m wondering how it is to experience your surroundings just by the sense of smell.)

 My own dogs always had problems if they had to go by car. But as it seems these huskies have a more resistant stomach then mine. Getting them in the boxes wasn’t a big problem although dealing with the tight boxes is nothing which was especially trained before. The youngsters just learn it by watching how the older, respected dogs go first.

Finally 2 hours later then the days before, around 17 o’ clock everything was done! It was already dark. I cannot remember when I have been so incredibly tired. But my day finished actually even later. I had my first meeting with Mr. Wolf, the big boss.

And I grabbed the chance to fill my already quite empty fridge. Working makes hungry! I eat at least the double of what I would eat studying.

Today (26.01) was supposed to be a quiet day. That’s why we were just three girls, doing all the necessary cleaning, feeding and drinking coffee.  Coffee seems to be the elixir of life of the team. The first action arriving at the farm is often to switch on the coffee machine. No day without at least 3 coffee breaks .They drink incredibly much coffee a day! But actually this coffee is not really strong. I’m sure my Italians wouldn’ t even call it cafè. Just while I’m writing these lines I heard this little question I already learned to love: “Rike? Kahvi?”.  I don’t really like the Finnish coffee. So, no ‘kahvi’ for Rike, but it is so nice that they still think of me. :)

Like everything in life plans like to change quickly. Look forward to a calm day and get an exciting one: We had to free a reindeer which runs regularly through the same wire-netting fence. We had to cut its horns free from the wire which was somehow wrap around them. The problem is that it is not really safe to go just in the fence and play with its horns. The Erä-susi reindeerbulls are probably the best fed reindeers in whole Kuusamo and they are quite big compared to the reindeers I have seen so far. In any case it’s not clever to just jump over the barrier and take them by their horns. Serious injuries because of reindeer horns are rare, because the people here know how to handle them. Reindeers are really shy and startle easily.When they get scared they tend to turn fastly their heads and actually they are quite strong.We needed our combined forces and a lot of hay to free it. But I guess in the end he was more scared of us than we of him.

A red plastic piece found its way in the engine of the snowmobile and made it do really weird sounds. I was allowed to drive today…hmm…?!... But it’s ok now.

An unwelcome guest visited the farm in the afternoon. The veterinarian came in order to vaccinate the 19 puppies and check a couple of other dogs. It’s no secret that the veterinarian is not the dogs’ favourite kind of human being. The puppies hided in their dog houses, bit and whimpered, but it didn’t help. In the end everyone got its dose of vaccine. He also checked a, as he found out by an ultrasonic treatment, unfortunately pregnant she dog. The dog was taken, brought in the garage and put without showing any kind of prissiness the belly up on a desk. It took him not even 3 second to check what was to be checked.
Unfortunately not every litter can be grown up. The team tries to prevent unwanted pregnancies, but often enough the dogs are just faster. I was told that sometimes an abortion is the best and safest solution.

And the surprise of the evening: 4 puppies and her mother decided to break free and have a walk in the deep snow. These puppies are really shy and always run even further away if somebody tries to get them…

All in all the last two days were tiresomely exciting. I learned and laughed a lot, but now all I desire is my bed! ... System error…Not even the internet worked anymore.   ....Zzzzzz

Knowledge of the day: Never underestimate the power of an adult reindeer bull.
Packet soups are potentially life prolonging.
Not even in the trash container are you safe – “Rölli”(trolls) can hide just everywhere.

Freitag, 24. Januar 2014

day no.7- lunar landscape and the dear little ones

Erä-susi Huskyfarm,-11 °C cloudy and grey
The backyard looks like a moonscape now. Loads of craters disturb its otherwise almost uniform surface. I spent hours to trench them. One might wonder what  the reason for that, at a first glance, quite remarkable undertaking is. Boredom? Training for the next absurd world record on Finnish territory? A much more unspectacular reason made me doing this: Not all of the dogs are living in fences, some of them are chained up having an undisturbed view over the white landscape. Since dogs normally are quite active running round and round they tower up the fresh snow to hills dragging their chains over the ground. In that way the Huskies shorten them more and more until their chains vanish in the built up snow hills. Before the chains got so short, that the dogs can't enter their houses anymore, somebody (me!) has to dig them out. So I burrowed me trough snow and ice and got some beautiful approximately 1,20 m large (diameter) and about 80 cm deep holes. Snowwork: shitty work, but a perfect method to get rid of stored energy. Surprisingly I really enjoyed it. It was better than every workout at the gym could be and not boring at all. But I dread you won't see my beautiful holes anymore in a couple of days, because the dogs will have them filled up again pretty soon.

Since even today we didn't have customers I spent some time with the youngest members of the team. I actually don't know how many puppies are living on the farm right now. Must be around 20. The youngest are born in November 2013 and they are the cutest creatures ever. Since they are about 10 weeks old, they are already really active, playful and adventurous- if you leave the door open they are gone in a minute. Puppies love to play and catch whatever they can get. Especially the youngest ones have a weakness for shoes. So if you like your shoes, keep them away from their little sharp teeth. The same with gloves, camera bags, handkerchiefs etc...This little darlings are incredibly cheeky and inventive. They steal everything which is not nailed down.

Play with me!
This picture was actually taken in November, so the little one in my arms now doesn't fit there anymore.

On the farm there are living mostly Alaskan huskies, but some of the dogs are Siberian huskies. The can look very much alike. That's why often it is hard to identify the breed just by sight. The Alaskan huskies living here are a mixture between Siberians and Irish setter. So depending on the pedigree the colour of the fur can be black, white, brown, yellow, golden shades or even totally mixed up. 20 % of the dogs are born with this beautiful light blue eyes;sometimes it can happen that they have one dark and one light eye. For sure the Siberians are not the ones with lop ears.
Even though at the beginning they looked more or less all the same to me, I slowly start remembering their names. Each of them is unique in its outer appearances, in its personality and in its attitude. I already have my favourites although it might change again, since I get to know every day a little more about them.

frost patterns

I arrived here with some scratches on my left hand, nothing serious, but they are still seeable. I noticed that the healing process of wounds seems to take much longer here. The cold dries my skin and since I'm using my hands everyday working it might take some more days until they vanish fully. 

Knowledge of the day: Complexity is no guarantee for utility.
the longest single word in Finnish according to the Guinness Book of Records

But I guess even more complicated than the word itself is to find an adequate translation for it:
epä- ("un-") + järjestelmällistyttämättömyydellänsäkään, negative participle of järjestelmällistyttää ("to make others to systematize")+ -yys + adessive suffix -llä + third person possessive suffix -nsä + enclitic suffix -kään;

'even with the lack of his/her ability to not make others more disorganized'  ?! 

Donnerstag, 23. Januar 2014

Day no.6 - Silence

Erä-susi Huskyfarm, -18 °C the Finns start sweating...
Silence. Have you ever thought about silence? Does it really exists?
I couldn't sleep last night. My mind wandered and strong thoughts kept me awake. The monotonous buzzing of the fridge made me nervous and so I took my jacket and went out to have a walk. My eyes easily got used to the darkness. It gets never really dark here.The world is enlightened by the stars and the pale light of the moon, even though the sky was covered by clouds that night. The snow brightens the landscape reflecting  any kind of light. Behind the trees that surround the farm you can see the lights of the Ski Resort Ruka.In clear nights you can see arctic lights and I was lucky, I have seen them once, during my very first night.
Last night I wandered down to the lane behind the reindeer paddock where the dogs run during the day. The silent lightness of the nighty air blurred my insistent inner flow of thoughts and sharpened my sense of hearing. And I heard it: silence, nothing. I felt so small.Just me and the rhythmic up and down of my breath. No dog barked, no rattling of the chains, no lights (I couldn't the lights from Ruka over there), not even wind...It was so quite that I thought I might hear the snowflakes falling. The moon was hiding behind the clouds, but alternately I could find a gaze.It was mind-blowing. Somehow out of time.
Back in the house a cacophony of sounds welcomed me: I heard once again the fridge humming, the murmuring of the heater, water in the pipes of the radiator rushes, the beat of my steps dulled by the carpet.The tap in the kitchen still leaks and the bright sound of the dripping water drops raised me a smile. Somebody has blocked it with a tight red strap in order to hush it. But the tap doesn't give up yet.While I listened to the creaking of the steps climbing up the scale to my bed its astonishing loudness woke up my thoughts. Normally my home is the most silent place to hide. The permanent exposure to noise caused by traffic, people, advertisements, screens, background music in every shop, elevator, supermarket was part of my daily life so far. It was so loud outside that I didn't even recognize anymore the sounds in my quiet home. Here it is viceversa : The outer world is my source of calmness, at least by night, not my accommodation. I guess I will feel a bit lost back in Berlin or Tallinn captured in thousand sounds and a real flood of impressions, lights, pictures.

What are you waiting for? Let's run!
In my first days I just followed the team trying not to disturb, but being somehow usefull-with modest success. Most of the time I spent waiting for orders and watching. Often people forgot about me.Talking in Finnish they organized the daily work, forgetting  sometimes that I 'm ,unfortunately, not able yet to follow their discussions. I asked a couple of times getting short, but always friendly answers. Some of the team members don't speak English at all, which limites our communication to gestures and smiles. They often at least start to make them understood by gestures, but breaking up soon-often it is easier and faster to do it themselves.I started to study seriously Finnish to be able to communicate at least somehow. It's hard to get into a seasoned team which actually doesn't really seem to need my help. But I got the faint suspicions that things are about to change now. I have to learn a lot of things and someone seems finally willing to explain (in english!) claiming my full attention and expecting me to learn fast and work hard. He forces me to wake up and clear my mind. My motivation was about to flag a little bit. I need an incentive and here he is: back from spain and smiling the whole day! Challenge accepted! I will not disappoint him! :)

The Nordic way to keep flowers fresh...

My knee seems really not ok. I got scared by the my trusted physician..Hopefully it's nothing serious!

I wondered if it is possible to kiss when it is about - 30 °C outside. Do the lips freeze together...?

Knowledge of the day: "Train hard you must. A lot to learn you have, young Padawan." May the force be with me!

Mittwoch, 22. Januar 2014

day no. 4/5 - days off

Erä-susi Huskyfarm, -24 °C ...getting warmer? 

An unexpected guest occupied my bed today. Rightly! A cozy and warm bed is probably the nicest place on Earth. What a pity that it is so boring staying in there the whole day. My first 2 days off challenge me in a surprising way-I'm bored! I really like the work and the people, but I slowly start missing something essentially: food for my little brain. Without any distraction and new things to learn about the daily works it is extreme. I'm used to be confronted everyday with really abstract text to read and philosophical questions to solve. I normally talk a lot, discuss a lot and discover new dimensions of my fantasy. My studies often take me far away from everyday reality-absolutely useless in everyday live, but I love it to challenge me mentally like this. Now, that I spent some days just working, relaxing, sleeping, eating, I'm longing for something which makes my brain happy-unfortunately my supply of chocolate is eaten up. Sooo...I got my ass out of bed and started to have the desperate try with the finnish grammar. Perkele, what a strange language...!

Yesterday evening I checked out the Ruka nightlife. The girls from the huskyfarm ask me to join them and have a drink in Ruka. We ended up in the only open bar on Tuesday evenings: Karaoke! The Finns' love for Karaoke is really far from being just a stereotype. They really do it, and unfortunately most of them don't do it well! Mostly elder, young at heart ladies and gentlemen enjoyed themselves on stage howling in a bad microphone nostalgic love ballades in Finnish. It was not crowded in bar, rarely somebody danced (despite of us and a really nice troupe of  elder couples) and so the singers seemed so lonely standing on that big stage set in scene by the interplay of different light-tools coloring their faces alternately in a really nice purple and  pale blue.It was first of all funny and most of all horrible. Nobody could explain me why they actually do that. Is it fun? After some drinks (kindly sponsored by some Finnish gentlemen) I tried it myself and I was embarrassed. :) 

It got even better when they started to dance to Rock'n'Roll music on the tables. It seems that such dance performances happen quite often. Right above the heavy wooden table a wise person has installed some railings. The often quite drunken, wildly dancing and singing party people tend to loose their balance every now and then...But they had fun! I would love to see my parents, grandparents or even the elder myself  enjoy themselves still that much like they do! That was pretty cool!

I used the spare time to explore my surroundings a bit. There is nothing, despite of snow, reindeers and trees...where ever you go. This is the perfect place for writers, daydreamers, stressed business people, nature fans and iceprincesses. I love it! There is not even dust! A pure icy winter wonderworld.

ERÄ-SUSI Huskyfarm

knowledge of the day: Get your anger, boredom, loneliness, tensions burned out in sauna and relaaaaxx... Life looks much brighter afterwards!

A good book is a key to harmony and happiness.

Montag, 20. Januar 2014

day no.3 - wolf's hunger

Erä-susi Huskyfarm, -24  it's getting warmer!

Who has ever seen a dog eating knows that dogs have a strong appetite and can't really take a joke concerning their food. Today I learned how to prepare the huskies' dinner:

The Erä-susi huskies get special dog food with a high percentage of protein and fat. Living under hard conditions outside 24/7 they really need the extra portion meat, especially when they work.The huskies are fed with a mixture of  dry fodder and fresh meat. Normally once a day,after the last running sessions in the afternoon, the team prepares the food and feeds the dogs. I counted that they process around 60 kg dry fodder and about I guess 30 up to 40 kg of pig or cow meat every day. That makes minimum 630 kg of pure ingredients every week! The puppies get an extra portion early in the morning. So I guess it might be a little more all in all. I have no idea if this is a lot compared to the relatively big number of dogs living here, but standing next to this high stacked up 15 kg sacks I feel quite small. And all this meat...To me it seems to be quite a lot.

How to mix the dog food? It's actually quite fascinating to watch how it's done, even though it's obviously no big deal:

Get yourself a huge plastic tub and dump a 15 kg sack of dry fodder in it. Take a block of half frozen minced meat and throw it in the tub, too. Then take an axe and chop it until it really looks like minced meat and not like a sidewalk flagstone anymore.(This part is absolutely recommendable if you have to reduce any phychological tensions or aggressions.) Then fill the tub up with hot water, get yourself a huuuuge mixer and mix it until it looks really disgusting. Drink a hot coffee meanwhile the dry fodder absorbs the hot water. The result should be a slimy, sticky, brown mass, which looks really nasty, but it doesn't smell at least-just like animal food and meat. Really ok! 
Certainly it works with cold water as well, but since it takes its time to fill 200 tin bowls, it is better to use warm water in order to prevent the dog food from becoming ice cream before it reaches the fences.

Every dog has its own bowl and gets a measured portion depending on age, sex , training conditions and  nutrition level. The dogs should put weigh on, enough to handle the cold and affront the running sessions, but they shouldn't become too fat.I really wonder how it's possible that they get fat out there...
 I don't know how the caretakers can actually assess the dog's weigh under a massive fur. They will have their experiences. Since they work with them every day they know each dog really well. 

The huskies get crazy as soon as they notice the snowmobile with the big green plastic tubs on its trailer. They start barking, howling, running like crazy round and round. Most of them jump,some just wait whimpering with begging look behind the doors of their fences and a couple climbs the fences to have a good view over the arriving food. I never saw one jumping  over the barriers, although they wouldn't have any bigger problem to do so.

Thanks to good preparations and the good team everything is over in about an hour. The feeding is the last official part of the day, before everyone enjoys the happy hour. 

I can handle the cold everyday better. That might be just an illusion since it's getting warmer. I have the impression that I slowly learn how to put my clothes on and off when it's needed and I can stay longer in the snow without getting really cold.

Today I had my really first snowmobile driving lession. It's much easier than driving a car. Everyone can learn it fastly, but still ... my somehow uncoordinated attemps are not really impressive yet. :) 

Knowledge of the day: Perkele kylmä! ('Goddamn cold!') A good swearword (sometimes) breaks the ice!