Tag Archives: Moose

Please, Not Yet!

Sunrise/sunset: 06:40/ 19:37. Daylength: 11hr56min

I saw a moose on the way to work on Wednesday. There was nowhere to stop, so it was a fleeting glimpse, but it was standing in a clearing in the forest that lines the road for miles and miles. I saw the white plume of its breath on the chilly morning air as I flitted past.

There’s something magical about the dawn twilight. I had the sudden sensation of having caught sight of something that ancient people might have seen thousands of years ago as they walked in the forest. It crossed my mind afterwards, how little I knew about these primeval looking creatures. And so, I began to read a about them.

I was surprised to discover they are classified as a type of deer. They have long legs – good for walking in snow – and cloven hooves that splay out, helping them to walk on top of it, rather than fall through, once an icy crust has formed on top. Even more surprising was finding out that they are good swimmers. Their bodies are designed to withstand the cold, so are not well equipped for the heat of summer. They immerse themselves in water to help cool themselves, but beyond that they are well adapted for eating the aquatic plants they find there.

I had always thought their faces were an odd shape. I’ll put in a photo I took, last summer at Polar Parken, for reference below. Now I discover there is a reason for that long droopy proboscis. Apparently they can close their nostrils off when they are feeding underwater. They can actually chew and swallow without coming to the surface. Added to that, they can dive down to a depth of about six metres. Given that they look so ungainly on land, I was fascinated to discover they are so much at home in water.

And now back to last weekend, when Ann, Konstantin and I went for a walk. We set off close to Andrew’s school and trekked round a lake, taking in a stop in a lavvo along the way.

It was a beautiful day. The autumn colours are at their most spectacular at the moment, and the contrast with the blue skies and the darker green of the fir trees surely makes this one of the most beautiful times of the year.

As ever, some of the most interesting things were to be found at ground level as we walked through different kinds of terrain from dry woodland floors with undergrowth and tree roots to boggy wetlands, often with paths created by wooden planks or thick tree branches.

The lavvo was fascinating. You frequently find shelters on well-trodden paths in Norway. Most I have come across are simple newly-built wooden shelters of one sort or another, and they are often stocked with wood and have a fireplace or grill site nearby. The lavvo looked like a much more traditional tee-pee type structure, which is unsurprising as a lavvo is a form of temporary home used by the Sami when herding reindeer.

We stepped inside and found benches lined with blankets and a fireplace. It felt very sturdy and also cosy. It would be amazing to visit in winter and light a fire. There were loads of interesting touches, such as tiny light holes that looked like stars against the dark walls and quite a big gap in the roof to act as a chimney.

I took a photograph of Konstantin and Triar in the lavvo, that pleased me a lot.

Later in the walk, we stopped in another shelter, this time of the more standard type. I had understood we were doing a relatively short walk and had brought only a banana to eat, but by five kilometers in, I was quite hungry. So I was amazed when we sat down at the wooden table and Konstantin started to pull out a veritable feast from his backpack. He started with a flask of tea, for which he had several cups, one of which I accepted gratefully. As well as the tea, he brought out bread rolls and salty biscuits and liver pate in a tin, as well as various pieces of fruit and a plastic box filled with individually wrapped chocolates. It was when he pulled out his knife and started to slice an onion to go into his rolls that I really started to appreciate his food organisational skills!

We finished the walk and then went for pizza, which was a lovely way to round off the day. Hopefully we’ll get some more good weather before the winter arrives.

I mentioned the arrival of mince pies in the UK in last week’s blog and was thinking smugly that there was no way anyone here would start so early with the lead up to Christmas. Though I love Christmas as much as the next person (not really – I love it way more than average!) starting too soon can take the edge off. October, is too early, and even if you begin half way through November, by the time Christmas arrives, it’s more anti-climatic relief than unadulterated joy.

So I was horrified when I set off to work in the dark hours before five am yesterday, to be greeted by my usual radio station playing “When You Wish Upon a Star”. I had heard an advertisement during the week saying they would be changing to Christmas music on Friday, but they mentioned that this would be additional to normal services, one of which would be on an app. I thought perhaps I had misheard and for now, that I could continue to listen to the music that has become a familiar part of my current life. When I drive a lot for work, I generally get used to the music on certain stations.

Of course, Christmas music on the radio in Norway is very different from Christmas music provided by UK stations. Nobody here has been listening to Noddy Holder yelling “It’s Christmas” at the top of his voice for years. One of the most famous Norwegian Christmas songs begins with the line “Now we have washed the floor and carried the wood in” (the song is by Alf Prøysen who wrote the Mrs Pepperpot stories I read as a child) which I can’t imagine featuring heavily in any British Christmas song. The Norwegian songs are interspersed with Bing Crosby and other US classics, which always seemed rather old fashioned to me, even as a child, and I still like them less than many of the British Christmas top hits, including more modern entries by Coldplay and Glasvegas.

So closer to Christmas, I will gladly start listening again. It’s about time I learned to recognise more of that Norwegian Christmas music. I have become rather fond of Alf Prøysen’s Julekveldsvisa (though I draw the line at having to clean the entire house before I relax into Christmas Eve) and I should continue to embrace more Norwegian things. But not just yet. December will be quite soon enough.

Hazy

Sunrise/sunset: Up all day.

We’re into July now. Time seems to be passing almost too quickly. In a couple of weeks, the twenty-four hour daylight will be past. In August, I will have been here a full year. I only have one week of holiday booked this summer. Norwegian holiday laws are odd. For some reason, you are paid holiday pay in arrears, the year after you took the holiday. As I only worked from August last year, I’m only entitled to ten days of paid holiday this year. Last year, my only holiday was the ten days I spent driving up here, so it feels like a very long time since I’ve had a break. Anyway, given the continuing COVID restrictions, I thought it would be appropriate to use my week in August to travel up to Nordkapp, right up at the top of Norway. I will then have driven the full length of the country.

I had my COVID vaccination this week on Wednesday. Though Norway is a little behind the UK, everything seems to be moving along now. John had his on Thursday and Anna will have hers when she returns from Rogaland. I’m not sure what is happening with under 18s yet. I hope that Andrew will receive his in due course. The UK seems to be about to head into crazy territory. Allowing the virus to run rampant through the young people, knowing how easy it is for the virus to mutate, seems like a very strange pathway to choose, given that there’s a viable option to vaccinate.

I don’t have much else to report. I saw some moose on the drive to work and yesterday came across a gorgeous reindeer wandering about on Senja, but as usual, photographing wild animals proved more difficult than taking pictures of the scenery!

In the depths of the polar night, the light was bluish and very clear. Now in the height of summer, there’s a haze hanging in the air that lends the distant mountains a sense of magical unreality. And then there are the flowers. They are everywhere. I’ve taken a few photos as usual. Hope you enjoy them.

Dyrøya from Senja.
The mountains of Senja from my back garden.

Killing Time

Sunrise/sunset: 04:57 / 20:37. Daylength: 15hr 40min.

On Monday, Hilde drove me over to the abattoir where I will be spending a good chunk of my working days over the next few weeks. With the short summer and long, hard winter, most of the spring lambs will be brought in before it’s time for the remaining animals to be moved into their winter housing. Vets play an essential part in the process. The health of the animals must be checked before they are humanely killed and the welfare and conditions are carefully monitored.

Afterwards, a team of vets and technicians inspect the meat to check whether it is fit for consumption. This is another chance to check health and welfare. All the information from the checks, both ante and post mortem, is recorded. Nobody could claim it’s glamorous work, but as well as ensuring the animals are treated well in the abattoir, the findings are used to assess whether there might be problems on the farms where the animals were raised. If the animals are too thin, have overgrown feet, or show significant signs of illness, then a message is sent back to the local Mattilsynet office, where their vets will contact the farmer and take measures to improve the situation.

On Monday’s visit I was fitted out with a uniform, boots, a locker and a card to open the door. Hilde brought cake again, and I met a few of the staff.

On Tuesday I drove through again with Thomas. I had met him on my first day at work and he seemed friendly, but I hadn’t seen him since. Now he was to give me my first taste in working in an abattoir in northern Norway.

For my part, I was most interested in the inspection of the live animals. It is hard to spend much time on the internet without seeing horror stories, but my impression over the course of the first week has been that most of the animals coming through are very relaxed. Though the pigs all had balls in their pens to play with, most of them were sleeping when we went to see them. Some of the sheep were more skittish than others, but many of them came and were nibbling on my wellington boots. All animals have fresh water in their pens and any cows that are milking are milked if they are in for any length of time. The surroundings are quite similar to those you’d see on the farm and most farms here in Norway are small, so a lot of the animals are used to being handled.

The slaughter process itself was quick and efficient. Thomas showed me how to time the interval between stunning and bleeding. With the cattle, we checked the animal was unconscious before being moved on to the next stage.

It’s a forty minute drive to get to the abattoir and the road is dotted with warning signs for moose. Thomas told me I would see more of them in the winter, though for now they are elusive. The filling station near the E6 has leaflets explaining what to do and who to call if you hit one. I hope it never happens to me, though it is possible I might be called out to do meat inspection on those too if they are injured and have to be shot.

It’s cooling towards autumn now. It was 4°C when I arrived at work yesterday morning. Though the trees are still clinging to their leaves, they are beginning to fade. The ground flora is wonderfully colourful and intensifying as a multitude of berries appear.

There was only one near miss with technology this week. Thomas handed me over to Ammar on Wednesday and he suggested some reading material. The season (as they call it) will begin very soon, and by then I have to be up to speed with meat inspection for lamb. Back in the office, I had chosen a pin code for the printer. You send your file, retrieve it and then put in your number. I assumed the process was the same in the abattoir, and so I went through the retrieval process and began to put in my four figure number. Luckily Ammar stopped me in time, before I set the printer in action printing out *9250 copies of an eight page document on red meat.

Friday afternoon was rounded off with waffles. In Norway they are traditionally eaten with strawberry jam and soured cream. It took me a while to get used to this combination, but now I love it. And what could be more Norwegian than a mountain of waffles to round off the week?

*Not my actual PIN.