Nearly a month done!

Monday 26th January.

A day off today, and the temperature is a very mild -3 degrees with some snow and a little wind.  We wake late, a luxury and decide what to do with our off day… But first there is no food! The larder is empty so Daz has to go cap in hand to Ola at the Villa Lanca to see what he can scrounge.  Fortunately Ola has the petty cash and gives him some cash so he can buy bread, butter, cheese, yogurt, muesli and bacon…breakfast sorted.

Unlike our previous off days when we went off for ages into the wilds and came home much later exhausted and cold, this time we decide on a short walk around the Juuanta river circuit and as Horse Satu has left ‘Rocky’ her long haired Alsatian in the apartment we take him with us.

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The walk is beautiful but we soon realise we have way too many clothes on.  Usually we’re cold but today it’s so mild and we take off our down jackets and we’re much more comfy.  Rocky loves chasing snowballs and later we discover he’s fond of stick chasing.  He’s a bit scatty for such a big dog but well behaved off the leash.  After the walk an afternoon nap then over to see Ola and use the WiFi and catch up with friends.  It’s Nicole’s birthday (Daz’s daughter) tomorrow.  She’ll be 18.  Happy Birthday!!!! Hopefully she’ll have the car on the road – Daz’s present to her with contribution to her insurance.  Happy driving Nicole!

Tuesday 27th January.

A really quiet day today.  Only one couple for dog sledding.  Erkki and Daz build the new Lavuu whilst Rob and I sort out the dog team.  In the afternoon we help Horse Satu with horse clients.  There are 4 who want to ride so 4 horses need to be prepared and then each horse needs to be led.  We also receive horse handling training from Horse Satu.  Apparently dealing with horses is about establishing respect so they want to do what their asked.  So we have to lead our horse.  Come to a definitive stop by stomping.  Marching on the spot and doing the chicken dance with our arms if we want the horse to back up.  It works in training but it makes no difference when we’re taking the clients out. My horse, Stella, just wants to be as close to Snellie’s arse as possible no matter how much I was pulling on her harness!  I ask Daz how he got his to walk so slow, but he just had the only male horse and was typically slow!!

Lucy has been escaping from her kennel.  3 times she’s got out.  She’s had enough of her puppies and when we bring water for them she runs off with the water dish, her pups are obviously driving her to despair! Mind you, if I was having to lick clean Shithead everyday I’d be wanting out! Today she is moved back to her old home in the main dog area.  From now on the puppies are on their own.

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News today – Rob isn’t happy here since the fire and has decided he will leave (3rd Feb) coincidentally the same day as Ola.  And there is to be a change of schedule.  Erkki (and Lukas) don’t like the volunteers in the main house so instead of staying the night, all volunteers will be on day working and will return to the apartment.  We think this will start around 3rd February when Rob leaves.   So we’ll see how that suits everyone!

We’ve had confirmation of a job in Norway for mid June and we’ve been offered work in Iceland, thanks to a recommendation from Heli.  We got really excited when they offered us 25000 Icelandic krona each per month……………………..but then discovered it’s only £125 but still that’s £125 more than we’re earning from our other jobs.

Wednesday 28th January

Today Erkki brings the new volunteer.  He’s Belgian, called Sebastian.  He’s only been learning English for 2 months and so he’s going to struggle to follow what we’re saying.  Lukas tries French to begin with but he soon reverts to English.  Seb’s only 20 and full of energy.  Erkki should have brought Maria today but she and Ola decided to hitch to Karigasniemi (and perhaps to Norway) yesterday.  It’s 100 km north of Inari.  They left at 10am yesterday and they were supposed to catch a bus back but missed it!!  So no Maria today and Horse Satu has had to cover for Ola in Villa Lanca.  More of this later.

Today we have to prepare 4 teams and all goes well with our new volunteer. Although the language is a barrier, he is a quick learner.  We have also been told by Erkki that we will no longer stay overnight at the farm from today.  Seb will do the next 3 nights and then after that no volunteers will stay on the farm.  So this will mean warm showers everyday and a real toilet!!!  But possibly early mornings too !!

More news. Maria and Ola made it back to Inari today but for whatever reason they have left. So we’re down to 4 volunteers and one of those, Rob, is leaving on the 3rd February.

Back at the apartment we contact Ola and arrange to meet them in PaPaNa’s to hear their news.  They got a lift within 10 minutes but as the lady was going to Kautokeino in Norway they decided to go there instead of Karasjok where they had originally intended.  They had a pleasant afternoon but started hitching back at 5pm and soon realised they were unlikely to make it back.  They text boss Satu how wasn’t receptive to the news they were stranded in Norway.  They got one lift with a truck driver but decided to stay there because the lady who had given them a lift earlier had promised to get them back to Inari by 10am Wednesday.  By the time they got back to Inari they’d had more texts from boss Satu of such a nature that they decided their work for Erkki and Satu had reached its end.  So that’s 4 volunteers that have left much earlier than planned and one employee who’s been sacked.  Erkki thinks it’s the quality of the volunteer but the common denominator is the bosses and the work.

Thursday 29th January.

Erkki picks us up at 9am – that’s me, Daz and Rob but there’s only 2 clients today so that’s just one dog team to prepare.   There’s been snow during the night and much of it has blown onto the farm track. So job number one – clear the farm track of snow, Seb and Daz go at it with the hand ploughs and me n Rob follow with shovels trying to keep up with them!  Then Rob, Seb and I prepare the dogs whilst Lukas and Daz each take a skidoo to clear the route for the sleds, this was Daz’s first excursion on the skidoo and all he had to do was follow Lukas, but he said he had fun especially when. Cornering as they are not as responsive as you would think.  Whilst he is away I go to get Bang, one of the pups.  He’s going to run today. But disaster strikes.  Only yesterday Daz was laughing because I’ve yet to lose a dog.  Today I lost 3.  3 of the pups escaped when I was trying to get Bang out.  It was mayhem.  I shouted for Rob but he didn’t hear me or realise why all the other dogs were barking and making a huge din.  Usually a give away of an escaped dog.  The 3 pups were running round the public area and into the horse paddock.  I managed to capture 1 but it took ages to get the other 2.  What a nightmare.  I could have kept it quiet but was certain Lukas would spot all the dog prints everywhere including the horse paddock.   In the end we had to chain Bang’s kennel mates to get him out.  And he had a great run. However we do get told off later as Daz forgot to take the collars off the pups and they chew one of them in two!!

There’s now yet another change afoot.  Erkki has brought some sort of wood cabin/bungalow on skis which should be delivered at the weekend.  It’s going to be the volunteers hut – where they go for brews and lunch etc.  But there’s been talk of bunk beds so perhaps we’ll go back to night farming.  The cabin even has a sauna – apparently. So Erkki marked the spot where he wants it and the digger came to clear the ground. As it was such a quiet day Erkki was about to leave and had said to Daz that he would pick us up at 630pm, Daz exclaimed at the lateness, it was only 230 now and all the jobs including poop pickup had been done, Erkki relented and decided to take us home, so an early finish, but we are waiting for the new schedule to see if we will be getting a day off soon… otherwise we will have to have words!

Friday 30th January.

We have 2, yes read it and weep, 2 days off!!!  So off we go, hire langlauf skis and off we ski to the Wilderness church with Rocky the dog.  Its been over 20 years since Daz did langlauf and he was soon on his arse, but my laughter was cut short as I hit the ground too!!  But we soon found our ski legs and setting a good pace.  We get to the church and the cabins and coincidentally Petri is there waiting for some horse sled clients so he gets a fire going which is a welcome respite from the cold and snow.  We visit the church and then get back, we think we might run into the horse sleds on the way back so to be careful we put Rocky on his leash…. I am soon on my arse again as he drags me down a slope, “Daz? Will you take him?”

Fortunately it’s not long before we pass the sleds and we can let him off again.

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After our amazing skiing adventure and a nap we complete the day with a lovely celebratory (it’s our last paid day in the Army! Tomorrow we will be civvies!) meal at the Kultahovi hotel; 5 courses of wonderful local produce including reindeer.  It certainly rivalled some of our better experiences in the UK!


Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight… red sky in the morning, shepherd’s barn on fire!!

Fire, Fire, Fire

Thursday 22nd January
Today our farm cabin burnt down. Everything in that block of buildings razed to the ground: our cabin, the equipment room, the wood shed and the tool cupboard gone!

It’s our day off today and we’ve decided to walk to the Sami Wilderness Church – it’s the destination of one of our horse sled tours. When we leave we’ve heard from Erkki that he can’t pick up Maria for day farming because there’s a fire at the farm. At this point we don’t how serious it is and there’s nothing we can do anyway.

We go off on our walk. Fail to find the Wilderness church -doh! See 4 reindeer, a Sami reindeer herder on his skidoo and walk 11 miles. And I see the sun for the first time since arriving! It’s amazing seeing that orange ball in the sky and feeling the heatmon your face again after so long. By the end of the walk I’m very very cold and tired; walking in snow is hard work.

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Back at the apartment we meet Sarah. She says they were just finishing the breakfast feed when they noticed the flames. By the time they got to the cabin the fire was raging and with a gas bottle inside they kept their distance. Sami reindeer herders came to help and the fire brigade was called. Sarah has lost clothes, passport, money, cash cards and other items she had in the cabin. Poor girl – she’s had 3 really tough days truly being thrown into the deep end and then the fire. A few hours earlier………………!!!!!! Lukas had mentioned that he thought there was a problem with the chimney – so perhaps it was a chimney fire!!!

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This was the cabin and stores before… P1030088

Maria, Rob and Horse Satu have gone to the farm. Sarah is having to phone many people. She needs money, passport etc.
We have a sauna booked at the Kultahovi hotel at 5pm. No one’s around so off we go. It’s fab. We go on the sauna and then go outside and lie in the snow, several times! It’s soooooo cold!!!

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After the lovely sauna we have a beer by their lovely wood stove – it’s made of glass so we can see the logs burning.

Today is opening night of the film festival. There’s supposed to be an opening ceremony but we’re too late. Instead we see the ice theatre – each tier of seats covered with a reindeer skin.

Back at the apartment. Sarah is leaving!! She’s had enough and who can blame her. Maria is back and has some photos. The cabin is gone. Rob and Horse Satu are staying the night on the farm in Lukas’ house. Erkki has managed to buy some dog harnesses and apparently ‘the show will go on’!!!!! Tomorrow Daz and I are back for 2 nights on the farm so I’m sure we’ll see what’s what then!

Friday 23rd January

We’re picked up at 9.30am and at the farm all are very somber. Is it due to the after shock of the fire or is everyone suffering from a vodka induced hangover???? Erkki has bought new dog equipment and we’ve got clients at 12 so it turns out to be business as usual. Well kind of. There’s no Lavuu – it’s still standing but it’s right next to ground zero – the site of the fire and we’re pretending to the clients all is normal. We’re not to mention the fire!! Or the war to the Germans!

There are some new chores to do including looking for our sled anchors in the remains of the fire. Unfortunately the fire is still burning and Daz melts his salopettes in the anchor salvage operation. We also need to chop more wood as the wood store, and all the logs Hels chopped the other day are gone and we need logs to be able to melt the water for the horses and dog soup. There is a layer of ash all over the snow and the site is still smouldering, as it gets dark we can see that it is still burning deep in the ruins, it’ll be a few days before we can try and start salvaging anything else.

Erkki comes along later and takes Daz away to get one of the other vehicles as we need to be self sufficient for the next 2 days as he is going somewhere to the far west of Finland to buy more equipment. Already they have had to buy new axes (wood chopping), auger (ice holes), water pump (drinking water from lake), leashes and harnesses (doggies), more dog food (we’d just taken delivery of a new pallet and that all went up!) more food for us and tea bags for Hels! We need to put a list together of the other things we need like work gloves, head torches, batteries and all the other stuff we need to manage the farm. We are all amazed that the fire didn’t spread to the trees and other buildings, it really would have been the end if that had happened. Let’s hope that tomorrow the mood lifts a bit and we can all get back into a routine as such as it was.

We’re living in the farm house now. Some pics, Maria and Rob drinking tea English style, beds, Hels hugging the fire, Lukas and Maria chilling at the kitchen table (note kitchen bedroom combo!)

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Saturday 24th January

No clients for dog sledding today. Erkki and Satu have gone to the west of Finland to shop for replacement stores and equipment. We’re expecting Horse Satu and Maria at some point because there might be horse clients. So without the usual dog team preparation, Daz and I decide to make a more direct path to our new toilet. We chip ice from around the well and we clear snow from the site of the ‘new’ Lavuu

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and then apply some DIY to the new toilet which was so high Daz couldn’t touch the floor when he was seated and in order to hoist himself into seated position he’d bang his head on the ceiling, I just looked at it and wondered where my climbing gear was! So we’ve lowered the frame and we’ll see how long our DIY lasts. Apart from this we have the usual chores of dog and horse feeding and picking up poo. All in all a productive day!

Daz and Bandit, his fav dog, Hels and Suvan, her fav dog! (Don’t tell the other 35 dogs!)

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Tonight we’re home alone. There’s a Sami rapper (apparently quite famous) on in Pa Pa Na’s – Inari’s main watering hole and since it’s also Ola’s birthday everyone is going out and we’ve offered to cover at the farm tonight and tomorrow whilst they have a lie in.

Sunday 25th January

I get up and light the fires and feed the horses.

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We do the morning dog feed and poo pick up. It’s only -13 today so nice and warm.
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When everyone left the farm last night we told them to call when they needed picking up. But we overlooked the fact that Daz’s phone was running low on power so he switched off his phone only to discover in the morning that he needed the PIN to reactivate phone and its in the apartment. Whoops!! Anyway about 10am we see someone walking past the window. Erkki picked them all up this morning – think they didn’t go to bed until 3am so I think there are some sore heads.

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We have 4 clients today so a quiet day but Erkki wants to use the new open air Lavuu so we need to take the seats, and fire bowl etc from old one. The clients are Spanish, one is a tour rep and so whilst 4 of them go sledding with Erkki and Lukas, Daz has to escort the tour rep around and generally look after him in the hope that he will get us some Spanish clients! Daz, waffles any old drivel as he knows the guy will not know the difference between one dog and the next, although he does look worried when the Rep points out the horses are Norwegian fjord horses… Daz nods sagely, “yes, they were wild, but Satu is a great horse trainer!” Apart from that not much happening and we’re allowed to leave the farm at 3pm and a day off tomorrow. Hurrah!!!


Settling in and enjoying the life!

Sat 17 to Wed 21 Jan.

Saturday 17th January. The last couple of days have been really warm. Yesterday was only -3 and today is -5. Apparently it’s a big day today, we’re sled training and for this Daz has to sacrifice his day off. Erkki is supposed to pick us up at 0950hrs but he’s late. This is unusual, it turns out a lorry driver took out a power cable at the hotel Inari and he had to help with the paperwork. We go to the farm along with the 2 Dutch clients for the day. They’re doing the the ‘long run’ and in addition to their team another two teams have been prepped. One for me and Daz, the other for Rob and Maria. Erkki leads on the skidoo with Lukas on the back then the clients, Rob and Maria and us at the back. Daz is driving first so I stand at the front of the team and when we’re ready pick up the anchor and run to the sled and get in, pulling the reindeer skin on top of me. It’s comfortable and interesting to see the world from this level, my eyes are slightly higher than the dogs’ backs. Coolio except when they poop. Who would have thought they’d shit on the run??? Except Torre whose back legs think they’re squatting for a poo but whose front are dragged on by the rest of the team. Anyway it’s lovely to sit in the sled and watch the poo world go by. Unfortunately, Rob and Maria seem to be having problems and we keep gaining on them, it looks as if one of the dogs has got a broken harness and is not able to pull as efficiently . We’re supposed to keep a certain distance so we keep having to brake. We’re all brought to a halt by Erkki and we swap drivers. He spends some time with Maria and Rob and we later find out that Saki’s harness is indeed broken so they’ve only got 5 dogs pulling. For the last part of the route we go through the forest along an undulating single track. This is much nicer than going across the flat lake although the scenery on the lake is lovely. We haven’t been here before and it’s very pretty but the snow is really thick and our team are tired now and falling further behind the others. We try running on the uphills and other difficult parts to help them out. We get the teams in and find out we’ve got 2 more clients so we need a team for them. Daz goes home with Satu when she drops the over clients off, after all this is his day off!! He’ll be back at the apartment now, hopefully getting the washing done and going to a WiFi location to published the previous days blog… Well it is his day off!. So that’s 13 days we’ve worked and I’ve had 2 days off and Daz a day and a halfish. It’s worse than an operational tour!!!!!

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Sunday 18th January

Still warm. -6 although chillier stood out on the lake with the wind whipping straight at us. 5 Japanese clients today for an early long run… Daz is on Lavuu duty today. Normally after the clients come back in they spend some time taking pictures of themselves with the dog teams and get shown around the farm, especially the Chinese and Japanese but today 3 of the ladies are bitterly cold even wrapped up in all their winter gear (mind you the one wearing the avian flu mask was chancing it!) so they are sent straight up to the Lavuu to warm themselves on Daz’s hot sausage… to explain, this is German bratwurst cooked on the open campfire in the Lavuu to warm people up along with Daz’s hot juice … never mind!!! Daz and I are on nights for the next two days, so I hope my kindle battery holds out, otherwise Daz will be begging me to play ‘bananagrams’ or some card game!! It’s going to be busy tomorrow, we have clients for 9am, 11am and 1 pm but these timings are farsical: remember when you had CO’s (Commanding Officer to you civvies- just checked, I can still say that for another 12 days) Inspection and it was due at 9am but by the time adjutant, then Squadron boss, then squadron 2i\c, then troop staffie had factored in their pre inspection checks, you ended being ready at 7am for a 9am event. Well his place runs in a similar fashion; our bosses only care that everything’s ready but don’t give a damn if we’ve been ready ages… after all we’re free labour.

Before retiring for the evening (crawling, knackered into one of the doss bags we share with all the other workawayers with only a clean pillowcase as protection from who knows what!) Daz and I go for a walk in the dark night, there’s no moon, but the sky is clear and the constellations are out to see, I must learn a few more than ‘Orion’s belt’ and ‘the plough’. We walk down onto the lake and out a while, stopping and checking the sky for shooting stars (1-0 to Daz !!) and Aurora Borealis (0-0). The quiet is amazing, and it is at times like this that this experience is at its most surreal; walking under the night sky, nobody else for miles around, the untouched snow in the woods and on the lake at least 2 foot deep, and it was only 19 days ago that we left Hampshire and all our friends behind. I don’t think in our wildest dreams we imagined anything so amazing. With no cloud cover its getting colder again and we are soon off adventuring into deepening snow as we head back around towards the forest trail and the farm.

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Monday 19th January.

So early start today. Lukas lights the fires and we start dog feeding at 0730hrs. Well that’s supposed to be the start time but of course Daz is raring to go and is too impatient to wait for Lukas so by the time he joins us we’ve already done some cages. After feeding and poo pick up, there’s time for a brew and to find out which dogs are running and we’ve now got Maria and Rob to help us (although this should have been his first day off!). So we get 4 teams ready and we have some reserves if we need them because these teams might have to run 3 times. 3 of the substitutes are the older pups; Grey, Lumi and Beige. Daz and I are dreading this because getting collars and harnesses on these guys can be a nightmare and even worse trying to keep them on and stopping the pups’ constant writhing and attempts to get free. It all goes fairly smoothly except for the following: Alaska spend his whole time waiting on the sled line either dry humping or humping his partner Aussi(she’s a girl) but this doesn’t stop when the sled is moving so the horny sod is returned to his kennel

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Just as the last tour goes out Klovni attacks Alpha, his jaws clamped round Alpha’s jaw. There is blood. Initially Klovni is sent to the holding line as the instigator until Lukas sees that Alpha’s paw is hurt and bleeding, so he returns to his kennel: and finally the 3 pups are put in line, but actually apart from Grey weasingly out of his collar the new boys do really well. By the time the 3 sessions had finished and everything packed away we were all pretty pooped. Time for a late lunch and then a dash to get the horse shit picked up before the light went completely. Remarkable event today: Lukas saw the sun. He hasn’t seen it since the beginning of December and because of the hills round the farm it takes several extra days to spot it. For tonights tea in the cabin Daz cooks baked potatoes in the fire wrapped in some tinfoil. With a few condiments and a homemade peppered cream and ham sauce they are lovely, steaming in their skins as we break them open and devour them!

Tuesday 20th January.

Another early start. 7 clients for a 9am long run. Maria is day farming but has horse clients so horse Satu needs help. And we have Sarah. A new girl. She’s Danish. We prep 4 teams for dog sledding and I’m driving one sled because there’s only 7 clients. The temperature has dropped significantly and it’s -24. Everyone’s asking if I have enough to wear. I’m nervous. Scared I’ll mess this up for the dogs and the clients and also because driving or riding in a sled is pretty static and in these temperatures that’s going to be cold! So we’re off. No big drama until we stop and I struggle to keep the brake on enough to stop the dogs surging forward (apparently I don’t weight enough to use the brake effectively, yippee!). We swap and the client drives and enjoys it but she soon gets tired at the long stops too because the dogs are still surging forward, wanting to keep going as we struggle to keep the sled braked (the brake is a metal bar you stand on with 2 anchor like appendages that get driven into the snow underneath it). So I drive the final stretch through the woods and nearly capsize ( I know this is a sailing term but it fits the bill) the sled. Really not good with a client. We take a left hand corner but the sled goes up quite a steep right bank and I end up running as the sled drops back to the flat and then jumping back on to the skids. And whilst the dogs aren’t going that fast, this all seems pretty quick and scary to me!!! Glad I was at the back and maybe nobody saw! We get back and unlike the clients, who are also all half frozen and get to toddle off to the warmth of the Lavuu I now have to assist with getting the dogs back to their kennels and cleaning and resetting the sleds; mind you, a few runs behind the still madly pulling dogs to their kennels and I am warm again!

Finally I get a moment of peace as we all retreat to the cabin and the warmth of the log burner, kettles on the stove and hot cups of tea all around. It’s a bit of a squeeze with Daz, me, Maria, Sarah, Horse Satu and Lukas all sat around the table reaching for bread, butter, coffee, jam, cheese, tea, hot lemon and cake but we all have a good laugh, all speaking in English or accented English in the main. Horse Satu is now used to Daz’s daily question of “How are you?” And has realised it doesn’t actually mean he is interested in her well being but that it is a general greeting the English use, and although not annoying is finding it tiresome having to tell him daily that she is fine, we all have a laugh at her expense. It’s great that all the people here are good humoured and we are always chatting away about this that and the zodiac (Lukas believes he is an expert and readily reads from his ‘expert’ book about all our traits, appearances and whether we should be together!). Soon though its back out into the cold, horse poo waits for no volunteer! Later Daz takes me to the woodshed for a quickie… lesson in log splitting and actually I find it invigorating smashing the axe through the old wood and soon get into a rhythm; log on, swing engaged, ordnance delivered on target, smash! Two more faggots for the fire!

About 3pm, I am called away by horse Satu to help Sarah with a horse riding tour. We have 2 clients, mounted on Rangwald and Sninni waiting for their horse tour that neither Sarah or I have done before. We have Horse Satu’s instructions and off we go. When we return we realise we’ve been abandoned. Me, Daz and Sarah are left with 2 horse clients, we have no idea what we are supposed to do with them or when they will get picked up. Lukas and Maria have gone early to town and Horse Satu is still away sorting out the equipment she needs for a sleigh ride she is running later. We have been left holding the fort. Daz ensures there is a fire in the Lavuu to keep the 2 horse clients warm. But after a while and Daz already having used up all his small talk on the two Taiwanese ladies we are still none the wiser!! Slight dilemma but fortunately before it becomes too uncomfortable Erkki arrives to whisk them away. Mind you he forgot the milk he promised and stocks are low, so there could be a tea crisis soon! That leaves Daz, me and Sarah to do the dog feed. It goes smoothly with no escapees or trouble. It’s been a long grueling day in low temperatures for Sarah the new girl, with a shed load of information to try and imprint onto her frazzled memory and she has more to come as she will soon be off to town to assist horse Satu on the sleigh run up to the wilderness church! Hope it all doesn’t scare her off!

Wednesday 21st January

-25 today. Daz did the late horse feed last night as I snuggled in the smelly sleeping bag and gets a text from Lukas saying today we’re not needed until 8am. A slow start after the last few days. We do have clients for around 11am and just need to prepare 3 teams. No real dramas today apart from my 2nd stint in wood chopping ends in bloodshed. I’d chopped the big logs and had started on the kindling but had left 2 pieces of wood on the chopping block and when I hit one the other ricocheted off it straight into my face/nose!!!!! Daz kept asking what was wrong but I couldn’t speak for the pain and then my nose started bleeding. The blood looked really impressive on the crisp white snow but I amin too much pain to notice… fortunately Daz took photos of it so I can reminisce later!

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During team preparation we went to get the 3 pups – Grey, Lumi and Beige. Unfortunately when Rob came into the cage he didn’t shut the door and Grey escaped, leaving us holding two wildly jealous dogs as he runs off after it down towards the lake! Later Rolfe who’d been taken from his team to make room for one of the pups got so pissed off being on the holding line that he managed to escape by braking a shackle and came running down to the sled teams. Fortunately he’s not a trouble maker and he trotted towards me and I took him back to the holding line. Daz is driving today – he has Beige (the pup) running next to Belle his mum. He has a number of dramas on his sled ride – but I’ll let him tell the story. He came back frozen and he’d only been out 30 minutes. His ear had frostnip and lost the skin.
Daz- so as Hels said I was driving and assisting one of the clients today, this happens when there is an odd number. I had a nervous young Taiwanese lady and she took first stint in the sled and would get a go later in the trip at driving. So Beige the pup is only about 8 months old and this is only his second go at being on a sled line, and as we all know pups are still full of the joy and playfulness of youth, this does not help as he is constantly trying to get his running partner, Belle, to play with him. Not too much of a problem whilst we are waiting for the off as Belle just puts him in his place, i.e. on his back in a submissive position. However during the run he was constantly running into her shoulder and pushing at her, so much so that twice we are sent off into soft snow on the sled, all the time I am cajoling them to behave whilst trying to steer the unsteerable sled back onto the track and placating the even more nervous client that this was all run of the mill! Anyway, we get to the turn around point and she takes over driving, giggling nervously, but she needn’t have worried as with such a superb dog musher as her partner we only had one further incident that I had to sort (the 2 front dogs circling onto the back 2!) before we were hurtling back to the farm. On a really positive note, I saw the sun today for the first time in 20 days, wow that was nice, but as soon as we went back into the shadow of the surrounding hills the cold bit deep again…hence the frostnip earlobe, it must have come uncovered on the ride! Must sort my hands out too, Hels complains they are like icicles!

A great event today – Erkki is taking us home early. We’re back in the apartment by 3pm – what a treat. Horse Satu who has really been feeling the cold today discovers she has frost nip on 2 toes on each foot. It looks bad and she goes into the bathroom (with under floor heating) to let them warm. Whilst she is warming up we go to laundry and then as we have to wait for the wash cycle to finish we go to the Hotel Kultahovi as we have heard they have a nice bar. It does indeed, with a healthy selection of warm alcoholic drinks to warm the cockles! They have a lovely fire pit too and a web cam showing the night sky so you can’t miss the Northern Lights should they appear, and fortunately soon after they are out in all their glory and we trundle outside with all the Chinese and Japanese camera happy snappers to watch them down out of the hotels illumination by the river. Blimey,they might be nice, but its freezing, back to the bar and the lovely fire we race! The rest of the evening is spent cooking some pasta amatriciana, playing cards and looking forward to our day off tomorrow… But there will be a calamitous event next morning, tune in next time to find out what happened!


A few days more!

Sunday 11th January
After our day off the temperature remains extremely low. -35. It’s too cold for clients and too cold for the dogs to run the sleds. The dogs shouldn’t run if it’s colder than -30, it’s bad for their lungs and for the pads of their feet. So after the usual chores Lukas suggests we put the 7 older puppies into the kindergarten, a seperate cage that isn’t being used at present. These pups usually live in 2 cages; Grey, Lumi and Beige in one and Ripa, Hilla, Kid and Bang in another. The first are about 9 months and the others 10 months. They are from 4 litters; Grey and Lumi are brothers; Bang, Ripa and Hilla are brothers and sister and Kid and Beige single pups. We get 5 into the kindergarten (all in less Hilla and Kid) but it soon becomes clear that Ripa and Beige (pronounced Beggar) have the traits of their fathers – Polar and Lobo- and really don’t like each other.We have to drag them apart several times. We wait, hoping they will decide to play nicely rather than fight but it’s not to be and we return them to their cage and add Hilla and Kid to the mix. They all play together nicely now the other 2 have been removed but unfortunately someone needs to keep an eye on them and it’s very cold standing around. Tonight Gabi is staying in the cabin on her own; she loves this and would rather this than share the cabin. She’s leaving in a few days so she’s saying her goodbyes. Then I’m staying at the cabin for the next 2 nights with Gabi and then Kate whilst Daz is day working and going back to the apartment each night.

Monday 12th January.
-38. Coldest day so far cold. Usual chores today and it’s still too cold for clients. Lukas suggests we go birch bark collecting. Birch bark is a better fire starter than paper (apparently) and we’re running low on supplies. So off we go, the 4 of us. Kate, Gabi, me and Daz but there’s only one pair of snow shoes so Daz wears them and leads the way but unfortunately we soon realise that they don’t appear to achieve much. Daz seems to sink as much as when he’s without the snow shoes but now he makes a much larger depression and then has to drag the snow shoes up and out. Also they keep unclipping and his foot comes away without snow shoe. Anyway we cross the corner of the lake and enter the wood Lukas pointed us to. Now all we need to do is find birch trees. Most of the trees we see are fir but we soon spot a birch and off we go. Kate and Gabi have done this before and have already gone their own way – bag in hand to collect the bark. Having spotted our tree we wade through deep snow and try to peel off the bark. We only get a few little pieces from it – we think we vaguely remember being told that older trees are best so we struggle on through the snow trying to find more birch trees. We do find a couple of trees where we’re able to peel off quite large pieces but on the whole we spend most of our time wading through the snow wondering if using paper to start fires isn’t a much simpler option. Eventually we find ourselves back on the lake and Gabi and Kate are there too. We make our way back to the cabin stopping to admire the beautiful red\pink sky over the lake. Back at the cabin we compare bark peelings – Gabi has managed to peel really large pieces. We have bark peelings envy!!!!! I later discover the larger pieces come from dead birch trees but Lukas says they won’t burn. We still haven’t proven this.

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Today is Gabi’s last day. She’s been here since about mid November. She’s always led us into our maddest exploits (running the pups in a sled and dog walking off piste in deep snow) so we’ll miss her crazy ideas. Heli has gone too – she was the employed horse expert living on the farm. It seems that there was a difference of opinion between her and the bosses and she’s clearly unhappy about leaving. We will miss her. She’s a massive chatterbox and Lukas is supposed to be coaching her in the art of ‘being mysterious’ and therefore more ‘interesting’ is her theory. But she’s crap and is like an open book. One question and you get her life story.

Tuesday 13th.
-34 today. No clients again. I get up to light the fires – one in the cabin, one under the bone soup and one under the water trough for the horses. Unfortunately my fires aren’t big enough and the soup starts to refreeze. This is the 4th day of inactivity for the dogs and it really shows at feeding time – the dogs go crazy. Usual chores but Daz drove the day workers here today; he is being groomed for something special I suspect. Time will tell. Today we decide to walk the pups; Grey, Lumi and Beige. Kate takes Grey, Daz Lumi and me, Beige. Grey is by far the best behaved and is out on the track first. Daz follows but when he finally connects the leash to the waist harness, the leather leash snaps. By this time I’m also on the road and Beige is howling and crying and twisting in the harness; he doesn’t like being behind other dogs. Kate keeps walking with Grey and whilst I stop to help Daz with his snapped leash I fail to realise that Beige is getting so frustrated with the delays that he manages to back our of the harness. He’s loose. I give chase but fortunately he only runs to the bitches cage and I manage to catch him, and reharness him. Back on the track we start walking but Beige is still howling and yelping. He’s not happy! We have another problem with Lumi and his leash and once again, when I assist, Beige escapes and this time runs away towards Kate. I give chase but fortunately Kate manages to hold him. Now that we’ve caught up with Kate we try Beige as lead dog and at last there’s peace. We continue until we reach the end of the track and decide to continue to the lake and back to the farm. But there’s deep snow and it seems Beige isn’t too clever at leading in this. Instead of jumping ahead he starts to run round me, occasionally spreadeagling himself in the deep snow and looking at me as if to say, ” Doh! are you kidding me, why couldn’t we stay on the track?”. Soon Daz takes the lead with Lumi and he understands what’s expected of him (Lumi, not Daz!) and we soon return to the farm unscathed with all the dogs still in our possession (thank god!)

We have a new arrival today. Lukas is showing him the farm. He’s Rob from the Netherlands. Young, tall and skinny with long ‘fairy’ hair and beard he looks like Thor, but without the muscles and good looks.

Wednesday 14th January
Only – 14 today. Rob and Daz are night farming now, changing out with Kate and Maria. In fact Rob is doing the next 4 nights. Talk about being thrown in at the deep end. There are 2 Italian groups expected today. We start early. Pick up from the apartment 8am. When we get to the farm we help finish the dog poo pick up. We’re expecting 8 clients for the long sled ride so we start preparing 4 teams. Rob is learning the process. We have 4 sleds prepared but Erkki arrives with the first group and there are only 6. We have to return the 4th team to the holding line, less harnesses. The guests are ready and Kate and I do the anchors and Daz releases the holding rope. The teams are off. They’ll be gone for about 1.5 hours. Maria is preparing the Lavuu and the sausages for their return. Daz is picking up the 2nd group of Italians for the short tour and has to leave. So off we go for a quick brew and we’ll probably do some horse poo whilst we’ve got some free time. Daz arrives with the 2nd group. There are only 7 of them. He has to show them the farm and entertain them until the first group is back (at no stage does he show them his arse, too cold he says!). We see the first group returning. They aren’t coming from the direction we’d expect, mad rush and small panic but we are ready when they slide in. We take the sleds from the guests, turn them around for the next group and go and fetch the 4th team. During the first run the deep snow made it really hard going for the dogs and they are already tired. There were also some reindeer out on our track. Fortunately the guests controlled their teams by keeping the brakes on whilst Erkki chased the deer away. It has been known for the dog teams to chase the reindeer. We are soon ready for the second group. Lukas is driving one sled and I’m going on the back of Erkki’s skidoo. We have a good run but the dogs are tired and Lukas at the back with a fresh team has to keep his brake on for most of the circuit. We’re done. We feed the dogs and then return them to their kennels. Today Horse Satu, Maria and I take 3 horses for a walk to the end of the road and back and then groom them before releasing them into the paddock. Kate, who has Ben our tutor for the past week leaves the farm today. She is going to the other farm in Karigasniemi, 100km to the north. She’s talking as if we won’t see her again. More mysterious goings on! I used to think sharing of information in the Army was poor but now I have a basis for comparison. Everything here is a secret including the work schedule. Remember: knowledge is power!!!!!

Maria and I go back to the apartment. Ola has invited us to Villa Lanca for dinner. We (Maria, Gabi and I) go over and once we establish that the coast is clear run back for some wine which includes the bottle Daz had bought for 30th January, to drink to our last day in the Army, soz Daz!! After dinner we go to PaPaNa’s (local bar, the only one! Also serves pizza, yum!) to meet Heli. It’s a good night and very entertaining – we chat to a pissed reindeer owner\herder trying to persuade him to loan us 3 reindeer for the reindeer race meet in April where you have to ski behind your galloping reindeer, sounds like fun! I think Maria’s charm should work but he’s so pissed he probably won’t remember.


Thursday 15th January.
Late start today. 10am pick up. Gabi’s off at 10 too. She’s flying home to Zurich. -12 today, so the dogs canrun, but we have no clients booked. Today we take photos of Lucy’s 5 puppies. They’re about 5/6 weeks old now and for the last 4 days or so they’ve been coming out of their kennel and are now eating solid food – we soak their kibble in warm water which they seem to like. As soon as we bring food there’s one pup who’s always first there. I’ve nickname him ‘fat fuck’. Lukas is unimpressed and wants to call him ‘Aunty’ – this is a Finnish name and I’ve probably misspelt it but it sounds like Aunty. I’m going to call him Aunty Fat Fuck, or Aunty 2 Fs or Aunty F squared. We have to do a rogues gallery. Produce pictures of the pups and then Erkki will decide names from the short list Lukas has drawn up. I wanted to call the bitch ‘Daisy’ but the British name contributions of Daisy and Fat Fuck has been dissed massively. And Aunty is such a good name????!!!!!!

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All 5 come out today and they are checking us out. Licking and biting our fingers. They are so cute!!! (Except for the one with poo on his head after he got too close to one of his siblings during a toilet moment, bizarrely our further name contribution of ‘Shithead’ is frowned upon in typical Lukas fashion. Who said the Germans don’t have a sense of humour, neither do the Swiss so it seems!)

Today we’re doing some sled training. It’s for us (the volunteers) and for the older pups. First we take out Beige,Lumi and Grey. We put Lobo in front with Beige. He has his own team so we’re hoping he’ll knock these young pups into shape. We get everything set up but Lumi and Grey both back out of their harnesses. But then we’re ready. Lukas drives first and we’re staying on the road instead of taking them onto the lake. Daz has run off to the junction 700 meters away to help turn them around. And they’re off. Lukas disappears and Maria, Rob and me wait. It’ll be a while. They’ll need to turn the team at the other end but soon Daz comes round the corner driving them back towards us. We turn the team and Maria drives them back to Lukas and then they’re back. That’s it for the time being,can’t do too much as they are still young and growing so we pack everything away. Maria needs to help with the horses. Horse Satu wants to do a practice run in preparation for Friday when she has 20 horse clients. Maria and Satu put Rangwald into the horse box and drive him to Inari. They tack him up with the sled and take him out on to the lake. Ola is out for the ride and boss Satu teaches Maria how to drive the sled. Later in the afternoon we take the other pups out on the spring sled. This time there’s no trained dog to show them the way but with Lukas they’re far better behaved than when we took them out. He truly is a dog whisperer. We do a couple of runs with Rob, me and Lukas driving.

Friday 16th January.
I’ve got a day off but Daz is at work. I’m going into Ivalo with Ola once I’ve put the laundry on (the laundry is about 10 minute walk away!) We’ve decided to hitch because a couple of people have told us it’s easy in Finland and despite the scarcity of traffic we get a lift in about 10 minutes. They are Sami people and Ola enjoys practising her Finnish on them. Not much in Ivalo but there’s more life, traffic and people than Ola’s seen for 5 weeks.

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We check out the second hand shops and then have a coffee. The main reason for the visit is to buy alcohol because I drank the celebratory bottle and we can’t buy wine in the Inari supermarkets. Shopping done and we head home. Again we don’t wait long for a lift – from a professional fisherman. He fishes in the lakes using nets; catching trout and white fish. Safely home I get back in time to meet Daz who has returned from his 2 nights away and let him know he is cooking dinner tonight for me and Ola… Well it is my day off! Catch you all again soon x


A day off? Nearly!

Thu 8th Jan to Sat 10 Jan

Thurday – Temp minus 9. Ahhh, should have been a day off today but we got notified we were being picked up at 9am to go to the farm, so we woke at 8 for some scrambled eggs and toast, but then another text came saying we were now being picked up at 10am! Apparently the clients wanted a lie in… wish we had that choice! The reason we were needed today is that there are 18 clients coming for dog sledding so we need to prep 4 dog teams. The clients are Italians and generally considered a bit of a nightmare eg not using the sled brakes and generally ignoring all instructions. We get the 4 teams prepped and Hels has Lavuu duty, then word comes of more clients than expected so we need to rush to get a 5th team ready. Daz has to rush backup to the equipment shed for more harnesses and reindeer skins and then help get the 5 dogs down to the lake, all a bit of a panic. Anyhow the first set of clients get away with only one of the Italians falling off. Then it’s turn around time and get set for the next group. But they all had a good run and on return we sort out the sleds and dogs whilst they go on the tour of the farm and get warm in the Lavuu. We have a spot of lunch in the cabin and then get a lift with “horse” Satu (she is a Finn and is a paid worker who helps Heli with the horses – known as horse Satu so not mistaken with boss Satu!). We arrive back at the apartment, have a nap and then cook some food and go back to bed… nice day off!

Friday – Temp minus 8. We are expecting after our day off to spend 2 nights at the farm, so we pack our overnight kit (toothbrushes, kindles and pack of cards!) and get a lift with “horse” Satu. We arrive about 930am to a busy scene in the pre dawn gloom as the others are already setting up the dogs for 8 clients who have booked a long run, this lasts 1 and 1/2 hours rather than 30 minute short run. We are expecting a further 7 guests straight after for a short run, all of them Italians again. We get the 4 teams prepped. And then wait a while as the clients have somehow got lost and Erkki doesn’t find them and get them to farm until much later than planned. (What did I say about Italians!) Anyhow they finally arrive and we set them off, as it is a long run we can get on with some of the chores whilst they are out, and we both pick up dog poop, horse poop and prep a caged area that we are going to use as the puppy kindergarten. Once the italians return we set off the next group. The long group go to Lavuu and have sausages and hot juice to warm them. We then clear up after the second group and go for a quick spot of lunch (left over sausages yum!). We then find out that boss Satu has done a new rota and we are not staying the night but going back to the apartment and getting a day off tomorrow (Saturday)! After that we are going to be split up for a couple of nights as Gaby is leaving shortly to go back to Switzerland and the rota needs a rejig. This means Hels will spend 2 nights at the farm whilst Daz only has to do 2 days of day farming (meaning he gets to return to the apartments for 3 nights) after that we should be back working together again.

After lunch I take Hels out onto the lake to show her how to draw water, then Erkki arrives with a chainsaw and chops up some logs for the wood store… looks like we will need to chop them further with the axe later as they are too wide for the stove in the cabin and some will need chopping further for kindling. Erkki then gives us a lift home and we cook a nice chili before retiring to bed, looking forward to our first day off.

Saturday – Temp -28! Wow a lovely cold day and as soon as it is light and after a good breakfast we set off with all our warm kit on for a hike up the river trail as we have been told there is a hill,Otsamo, about 9km away that is a great view point. The first bit is through the village to the river then along a trail that has been marked by a skidoo. After about 3km of following this undulating trail along the river and through the forest we cross the river on a suspension footbridge. Where the river is narrow it hasn’t frozen over and as it cuts through the ice steam rises off the water in the frigid air.

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Once on the other side the trail is not so well maintained and the recent snows mean we are walking through about 5 inches of soft snow, occasionally our feet break through the crust and we sink deeper making it hard going. As the day wears on we start thinking that we might not get to the hill and back in daylight and with such low temperatures it’s stupid to attempt it. So after consulting the map we decide to take a trail a little further ahead back to the river then back to Inari. Well, once we leave the Otsamo trail the snow gets so much deeper and we were soon up to our knees and sometimes mid thigh ploughing through the snow, fortunately there are blue marker posts at regular intervals so we hope not to get lost.

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Shortly, having consulted our map and GPS we know we are coming to the river crossing… ahhh, it’s not a bridge but a 500 meter wide expanse of frozen ice with about a foot of snow on top. We remember reading in a guide book that the river crossings should be open mid Feb for ski traffic… but we decide to press on. Daz has a moment of panic as he hears a hollow boom, but Hels eggs him on (she follows behind the heavyweight at a safe distance!) and with his heart in his mouth he leads the way across the frozen expanse safely to the other side!

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It’s now getting colder and we are both feeling the exertion of the day so decide to walk the last 3 km back to Inari along the road that is a few hundred metres away through the forest. We eventually make it back to the village looking like Shackleton and his gang, ice hanging off facial hair and eyelashes! Back in the apartment we see it has dropped to minus 31and Daz’s nose has just turned white, fortunately no frostnip has set in!

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But we have had an amazing walk and seen some beautiful scenery and hopefully next time we will make it to the top of the hill as we will be able to set out earlier and the daylight hours will be increasing


Our first few days in Inari

Arrival in Lapland

After touching down on the snowy runway at Ivalo with only a bit of turbulence to grab the sphincter we soon had our baggage and onto the prebooked taxi bus to Inari.


The bus took an hour to get to Inari with the bus driver averaging 70km\hr. Bit scary on these icy roads. After being dropped off at hotel Inari we walk over to Villa Lanca to meet our new bosses for the next 3 months – Satu and Erkki. Satu (woman) is a Sami, a native aboriginal dweller of northern Finland and Erkki (man) is Finnish. We also meet other workawayers Kate (Czech) and Ola (Polish). Then it’s off to the apartment which has 2 twin rooms. The plan – we’re expecting to go to the farm for day farming on Monday. Pick up at 0930hrs. But soon there’s a change of plan (something we’re soon to learn is a constant). Late in the evening a new workawayer arrives – Maria (German). Her luggage has been mislaid so she can’t do more than day farming. So Daz and I will go to farm with Kate and stay for the next 2 nights. The farm has no water or electricity. We have been told that the normal routine is 3 days/2nights at farm then 1 day off back at apartment, one day of day farming and repeat.

Mon 5th Jan to Wed 7th Jan.

Erkki picks us up at 915am. Kate, Daz, Maria and me. So that’s 3 newbies to train. There are 36 dogs, 5 one month old puppies and 5 horses on the farm. The farm is managed by Lucas (Swiss) who lives there in a separate house to the volunteers’ cabin. Also in the house is Heli (Finn) who’s responsible for the horses. They also have no electric or running water. A typical day on the farm consists of (apart from cold and dark!):

7am – outside to light fire under the dog soup cauldron and water trough for horses if it’s frozen. Feed horses. (it’s dark)


8am – feed dogs. Pick up dog shit. (still dark!)




9am – have breakfast. (getting lighter)

10am – prepare dogs for sledge pulling. Time involved depends on dogs and number of clients. (daylight hey!)

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11am – clients are picked up in Inari and moved to the farm, arriving about 1120am and after a quick brief are brought down to the sleds. We then assist them into their sleds, one passenger, one driver and once everyone is set we then let them away to follow either Erkki or Lucas on the skiddoo. They are normally out for 20 to 30 minutes whilst in the meantime we get the Lavuu set up (wigwam with a roaring log fire built by us and some warm drinks) for the clients to warm up in, and get the dogs some water/bone soup for their return. If there is a big group there may be two runs as we only have enough sleds to take 10 at a time. This entails turning the sleds around, which with 5 dogs attached and not much space can be chaotic!

Some time later… a quick bite to eat, maybe crackerbread with cheese and ham, or just a cup of tea and biscuits and its time for…

2pm – feed the horses and clean up the huge amounts of poop they excrete… we pile this upon sleds which are then dragged under a fence and dumped onto a huge pile at the back of the farm. I am not sure if the fact the severe cold has frozen the poop is an advantage or disadvantage… the smell is gone but it makes digging it up off the frozen ground a much harder job with having to chip it up with a shovel! (however if your angle of attack is good you can dislodge an entire frozen horse shit in a onner – very satisfying. Nearly as satisfying as pluking a good zit).

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5pm – feed the dogs and horses in the pitch black, did I mention it got dark about 3pm?! The dogs are v excited by the thought of food, but fortunately they have been well trained and with a few commands it is possible to feed them without getting licked, jumped on or covered in poo! “Istu!” – sit, then we put food in bowl, “Odota” – wait, “Vappa” – go! and boy do they go, it’s like watching Darren and his brother Carl eat! Blink and it’s gone!

6pm – time for cooking tea in the dark dark accommodation with a couple of candles to light the way… have you ever looked at a frozen container (it’s cold in the food storage area (outside in a box)) and tried to decipher Finnish by candlelight… oh what fun we have!

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9pm feed and water the horses.

10pm – chuck another log on the wood burner and crawl into your doss bag knowing that by the time you get up in the early dark morning the fire will be out and the log cabin will be chilly once again!

12am to 4am – wake for pee… outside you go, around the side of the building to find a spot in the forest to do your number one. The outside lav (long drop) being reserved for number two’s only as it drops into a bag for collection later! Back to the cabin shivering coz you’ve attempted this feat in crocs, pants and T-shirt and it’s well below zero.
So a typical day is hard, the temperatures are below freezing, it’s mostly dark and the conditions not exactly luxurious. But the pleasure comes in doing something so different from our norm; learning about the dogs and horses and being in such beautiful if not harsh surroundings.

Back to the diary…
Monday Kate showed us around and gave us the tour of the farm and what’s required. There is only one dog sled out today for 2 clients and then the horse sleigh ride so it’s a quiet day to learn all the stuff. When the sled returns we give the dogs some bone soup then take them back to the kennels and clean the sled and tackle for next time. It was cold out on the lake especially during periods of inactivity whilst waiting for the sled to return, but this is our first day and the lowest temperature was -12. Apart from the other chores it was a quiet day. At around 3pm Gaby and Maria get picked up by Erkki. They’re going back to the apartment whilst we spend our first night in the cabin. We’re not sure what to expect! We feed the dogs at 5 pm using head torches (it’s now very dark) and then back to the cabin for dinner – we make a bacon frittata (there’s only a 2 ring gas burner for cooking) which is yummy. Then cards and bed. For Daz this is a 2 wee night and for me just one. The wee spot is outside the cabin and we run round in our pyjamas and crocs. Bloody cold! But overall a good night and I think we’ve lived in worse.

Tuesday, we get up and light the fires, we think it’s a bit colder than yesterday and when Lucas comes in at 8 to go feed the dogs he tells us it is -29!! There are 3 teams needed today and we are busy with that in the morning. Later we take 3 of the younger 6 month old pups out to get them used to being harnessed and pulling a sled! It was Gaby’s idea and the untrained pups were jumping and getting tangled in the sled lines… but we finally manage to get them running across the lake, but to achieve this we have to get them to chase us otherwise they will run all over the place and we are trying to get them running whilst pulling the sled! After 3 runs we are all hot sweaty having sprinted like mad and we think we ran harder than the puppies! Later in the evening we went out onto the lake again and Gaby showed us how to draw drinking water from the lake beneath the ice… basically using a massive corkscrew to drill a hole about 15 cm across then using a manual pump to pull the water up into the containers… more hard sweaty work in the gloom of the early afternoon.

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Wednesday, the temp was much milder at -7 and made us all really hot as we did our daily chores. Hels and I woke very early and she lit all 3 fires for the first time… proper little fire starter she is! It was supposed to be a quiet day with one set of clients, but then they decided to go horse sledding as well and then we heard that Satu had sold another run to some more tourists, so we had to change the dogs out and get the Lavuu ready again. Hels got to go on the back of the skidoo with Lucas today acting as rear lookout which mean facing backwards on the seat and giving him a dig in the ribs if something happens to the dog sled chasing. This doesn’t always happen as with big groups they run a second skidoo at the rear. In the afternoon we had to open a new haybale for the horses after repositioning it… they are the big round ones you see in the fields in the UK and sodding heavy and very slippy in the snow!
Shortly after Gaby had another brilliant idea and we took 4 pups canicross running, so we each wore a hip harness with a bungee leash attached that is clipped to the dog. We also had a 1 man kick sled with us so we could get pulled on that too. It was good fun, especially as they kept getting tangled up as we ran along the forest road, then 2 of the dogs managed to back out of their harnesses and we had to chase after them… luckily we were back near the kennels and they just ran around that area until we managed to corner then. But Gaby wasn’t finished there and we dumped the sled and went off onto the lake for a few hundred metres before kicking right into the forest… now on the lake the snow is compacted from the dog sledding and easy going with the dogs pulling you along, but the forest was another matter! The snow was a good 1 to 2 foot deep and very powdery, it was hard work walking through it and even the dogs were struggling as they sank into their bellies at every bound! By this time it was dark and at one point Gaby was a little unsure of the right direction but fortunately before the rescue squad was needed we saw some of the reflective trail markers in our head torch beam and we were able to get backup onto the road and down to the kennels again… all of us hot and sweaty once again.
So that was our first 3 days at the farm, a lot of hard sweaty work (I may have mentioned that a few times, but glossed over the fact we had no running water to clean with!). We were picked up at 6pm on Wednesday and returned to the Inari apartment for a hot shower and warm(ish) nights sleep. We have been replaced by two other workawayers at the farm and will have a day off tomorrow…or will we?!


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We will keep you updated with the goings on! bye for now.



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Helsinki stopover

So we arrived in Helsinki late last night (2345hrs!) and couldn’t be bothered with trying to find the right bus into the centre so we splashed the cash and got a taxi, well we are both still getting paid until the end of the month! Sooner said than done we were in our swanky hotel and sleep caught up with us.  Saturday 3rd Jan we awoke about 9 and it was still dark… And raining, but with a fantastic breakfast we set out to explore Helsinki with the help of Hel’s copy of the Finland Lonely planet book (most excellent Christmas present… Thanks Daz!)  markets both indoor and out then onto the ferry for Saumolino, an island fort built in the 1800’s and I can imagine it would be quite enjoyable on a summers day with a picnic… Jan with a howling gale not so much!

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As you can see… Pretty blustery and we were caught out by how cold it was with the wind whipping off the coast..but that’s OK.. Only 3 celcius… Just think tmrw the forecast for the Arctic circle is -18.. Sure we will be OK!

In the evening we treated ourselves to some last luxuries…. A lovely meal and some beers!

P1020935  lovely scandinavian cuisine!

P1020949 some decent beer, mind you £7 is a bit steep for a pint!

And so our first day in Finland is over. It still feels like a holiday and probably still will do until we arrive in Inari tmrw…. But for now we are enjoying a soft and warm bed for the night….

Tmrw the real adventures begin… Not sure if and when we will have internet, but as soon as we do we will update.. Nite nite all.






Goodbye house, goodbye Andover

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Today we said goodbye to our house.  We’ve sold all our furniture because the tenants wanted it unfurnished.  I hope they love the house as much as we did.


P1020868   Goodbye Andover               P1020867Here’s our storage locker.  1m3


P1020875 P1020872And here we are on a geocache walk on New Year’s Day.  Here’s Gav and Vikki looking for the cache – but Hels has already found it.  Thanks Gav and Vik for looking after us for our last few days in the UK.