Sunday, September 29, 2013

A long way from Buchanan

Right now I’m 9 hours difference in time from Buchanan. As usual when I travel I’ve left my watch on real time but its more difficult to stay focussed on real time when the daylight is all fucked up. 9 hours translates to 135 degrees of longitude so I’m not clear on the other side of the world but close. On Wednesday afternoon Marilyn put me on a plane in Saskatoon and many many many hours later I arrived in Oulu, Finland. That’s somewhere in the northwest corner of the country, at roughly 65 degrees latitude, which is more or less 4 degrees north of Anchorage. When we left Calgary we were headed almost directly north – I suppose we went over Santa Claus’s home but it was too dark to see.

Its all been a grand adventure which is only marred by the fact that Marilyn couldn’t come along. The project has been delayed repeatedly and it probably should have waited another month for me to arrive. In that case it might have worked for Marilyn to come along but right now she’s deep in the Ag in the Classroom project so it was out of the question for her to waste 2 weeks traipsing around northern Europe.

That's my rental car (a Skoda) sitting outside the little apartment where I'm staying on the farm.  Its pretty crude accomodation but adequate.
You can certainly see the effects of cradle to grave socialism in the progress of this project. Nobody is particularly concerned about getting things done in a timely manner. The employee parking lot is empty by 5:00 PM and fills up slowly in the morning. Working on the weekend is a novel concept and not for any religious reasons. I have booked myself in here for 2 weeks but right now I give myself roughly a 60% chance of achieving that departure date. The two days that I have been here already have been largely consumed by seemingly endless meetings to discuss construction details that should have been dealt with weeks if not months before I arrived. All the trades seem to have very specific boundaries which leads to endless delays. For example, the plumber who is installing the watering bowls knows how to hook their heating cable up but is prevented from doing that because he is not an electrician. The installation of those watering bowls has emerged as a barrier to the installation of my equipment because it has developed that the client would like a specific spacing from the watering bowls rather than from the more fixed portions of the building.

I was initially confused by all the pavement and concrete but evidently another beneficiary of cradle to grave socialism is the livestock.  They are housed entirely indoors.  The farm is obviously a dedicated livestock facility but I have yet to see one animal.
Today (Sunday) my host invited me to go hunting with him. I agreed to come along with my camera. When we arrived at the parking lot in the “forest” I was more than a little alarmed by the number of vehicles. Along the road on the way into the bush we saw several orange jacketed hunters with high power rifles obviously waiting for companions to push moose out of the bush. Well ….. actually it wasn’t obvious that they were waiting for moose but that is what Errkki told me they were waiting for and the swampy terrain supported that thesis.

Neither of us had a speck of blaze orange on our clothing. Not surprisingly I don’t generally travel with blaze orange garments but it seemed careless for my host to be similarly attired. When I asked him about this he said that accidents did happen every year. Fortunately one didn’t happen to us but its not hard to imagine how it could have. With multiple shooters in close quarters they wouldn’t even have to mistake us for a moose – which they easily could have – we could simply have been caught in the cross fire. When my host proposed a repeat engagement for next weekend I politely deferred.

Other than the fear of getting a 40 calibre hole in my heart it was an enjoyable morning. Errkki has some kind of long legged dog that vaguely reminded me of a golden retriever. The dog clearly knew where we were going because he was frantically pacing the car when I got in and almost immediately started howling. That continued for the 15 or 20 minute ride into the bush. As soon as he had his collar on and was released he disappeared into the woods and was gone for a very long time. We fussed around in the clearing. I put on some waterproof leggings that Errkki had thoughtfully provided as well as some oversized rubber boots complete with wool socks. Errkki showed me how his handheld GPS display showed both our position and the dog’s location as well as other dog-related data (like the frequency of his barking, how far away he was from us and how far he had travelled in total). After a while we could hear him barking and when Errkki checked his gadget it turned out he was close to a kilometer away.

Eventually the dog started getting closer and his barking became more frantic. We stood out near a trail and shortly spotted a bunny coming down the trail. The bunny didn’t look all that alarmed because at that point he was probably 2 or 300 yards ahead of the dog. He wasn’t far enough away to avoid Errkki’s shotgun blasts although he did zig zag into the parking lot at the last moment and I had a brief vision of a shot blasted vehicle. I trust Errkki had his background in mind but he came alarmingly close to holing his own car. About the time that Errkki got the rabbit gutted the dog came trotting into the clearing and quickly cleaned up the good bits from the rabbit innards.

We then spent about 3 hours tramping along trails through the swamp without any further rabbit deaths. On about 3 occasions we could hear the dog barking in the distance but he never brought us any more bunnies. Periodically the dog would rejoin us for a few minutes and then take off on another adventure. At one point we met up with another dog that vaguely resembled a Husky sled dog which Errkki said was the breed type used for rounding up mooses. That dog followed along with us for a while until we met up with his owner.

Our day finished up with a smoky campfire where we roasted some excellent sausages on wienie sticks.  A very pleasant ending to a pleasant day made all the more enjoyable by the fact that we didn't get shot.

Please accept my apologies if this post doesn't follow my normal format - Google seems thoroughly baffled by the fact that I routinely post from different locations so I have been forced to post this through Blogspot's web interface.  I find that astonishing in an era where travel is common - surely a company that can map the world realizes that their own staff are not the only people who ever venture afield?

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