We have c. 3 months, each year, when the ground is workable. At all other times, it is either partially or completely frozen. Hence, all of our key development projects, annually, have to be fitted into the summer months whilst also, of course, continuing with daily farm life, ongoing maintenance projects and the training of our dogs. Although building and maintaining kennels, lines and other dog-related or self-standing equipment can obviously be carried out through the year, construction in -40C is always pretty challenging!
In the summer of 2021, we installed a water therapy treatment centre in the dog rehabilitation room and almost finished the refurbishment of the northern lights viewing cabin (with a new toilet and logshed). We finished putting up dog cages at the Palojoki cabin (so that the dogs overnighting there could have better individualised kennels vs sleeping, as traditionally, simply on travel chains) and built a new generator building in the front yard of the farmstead.
In the summer of 2020, the summer of Covid, we had very few people working. Despite that, we tiled the floor of the dog kitchen (which meant that we had to take everything out of there for some time). We carried on working on the interior of the client kitchen and dog / human treatment room and we re-laminated the floor of the living room and kitchen - both of which the dogs had completely destroyed. In other words, nothing was where it was supposed to be through most of the summer so everything was in a state of perpetual chaos.
We also had to take everything out of the Kelottijarvi cabin since the roof was dodgy from the extremely heavy snow load of the previous winter. Pasi took advantage of Anna being in the UK with her mother for five months to move the Nammalakuru Cabin from the yard to behind the running circles (aka not where he had agreed to put it with Anna!). Anna's absence also meant that the fabric kota got taken down...aka more stuff everywhere!
During that winter, the interior of the northern lights viewing cabin was revamped ready for clients and some touch-up projects were done on the palojoki cabin.
The summer of 2019 was 'Maxime's electricity' summer. Maxime had literally walked out of the woods into our place just prior to winter and he spent the winter with us seeing how everything was set up and then used his electricity skills to try to completely revamp the lighting in both the farm, house and farmyard area. The project was enormous in both scale and effort and there was a LOT of digging of trenches and remembering where previous cables had been laid without good reference! We worked more on the client kitchen and extended the warm space so that we could have a designated dog and human treatment area - as well as making a couple of new 'special needs' cages.
In terms of sustainable business development, we joined an EU project designed to carbon footprint various aspects of our business and started to work with the company's designated assessors to also determine areas in which we could reduce our overall footprint and the footprint of individual products.
By now we had exchanged all but 2 of our 2-stroke snowmobiles for 4-stroke machines. The EU project we had developed around sleddog welfare came to an end. Unfortunately the University of Lapland didn't feel, at the time, that the other participating companies were ready to go as far as we had hoped, and the final outputs from the project were done without consulation back to the participating companies (which always seems to be the case!) so whilst the materials that were published could have been great, they were less than, since all had inaccuracies which made them obsolete. This was disappointing.
In the summer of 2018, we built a barn for bicycles along the path on the way to the farm and a large storage building for the dry food just inside the farm itself. We also extended the special needs area. This was also the year when the Nature Tourism Plan for Pallas–Yllästunturi National Park was commissioned and work was carried out towards EUROPARC Charter Part I nature tourism certification.
We also built, from scratch, a new location in Kallo, on the South Side of Yllas. This farm was basically the culmination of years of acquired knowledge in terms of efficiency of use.
In the summer of 2017 we repaired the fronts of all of our original farm cages and raised the feeding holes on many of the cages in the right-hand-side U. Tim made a neat adventure agility leading to the treehouse (the least important project in his mind, but the cutest in mine) and we exchanged Soda's (our resident 'asthmatic non-running puppy' metal cage in the recuperation area for four smaller cages (to help reduce pressure during feeding time, with the dogs moving in and out of the house). Soda's cage moved down to the farm so that he was nearer to a running fence so as to enhance his quality of life. We also built a new 'special needs' area with 8 new floored cages, at the farm and put in a small running fence with a large kennel targeted at older females, just inside the main gate.
In 2017 we also started to substitute 2-stroke snowmobiles for 4-stroke machines. We had been watching the 4-stroke machines for a while but hadn't been convinced that the technology was good enough to ensure that they would start in a remote location on a -40C day. We still weren't convinced but exchanged 2-stroke for 4-stroke machines for the base fleet.
In the summer of 2016 we did an awful lot of maintenance on the sleighs, moved the souvenir shop up to the farmhouse area and set up an itemised till system (so that people would no longer have to pay in the entrance hall to our home), built a treehouse, a drying shed on the farm and a client 'bag palace' beside the kota (so that we could put the bags of those departing on safari into a safe location from which they wouldn't need to be moved when there were new clients using the kota). We also made an enclosed female running fence area for our most difficult females and managed to finish treating the wood at our palojoki cabin with tar. Our Kelottijarvi cabin also got a facelift into a Norwegian-style black and white wildernes cabin and the grounds around were tidied up a great deal.
2016 was also the year of the campaign; 'A million bird boxes to provide homes to ten million hatchlings' and in that year we committed to building and errecting around our properties over 100 new nesting boxes.
In the summer of 2015 we expanded our 'dog recuperation area' close to the house and added an isolation area which could also be used for both lost and found dogs and visiting hotel dogs. In order to fully utilise the new area, we had to build a number of additional single kennels of our own design. This, in addition to putting in a new sauna at our Palojöki location, and doing a major overhaul of the sleighs, took a large part of the summer.
In addition we were invited to apply for the World Responsible Tourism Award in the Animal Welfare category. We went through the submission process (which was pretty long and arduous) at the same time as trying to change the coding of our website so a lot of the summer was spent on computers. We were super happy when later on that year we found that we had been awarded a joint Gold Award with Canned Hunting in S. Africa.
We initiated a 2nd EU Project looking at Husky Welfare which ran for the following three years. Our intention was to try to develop a set of guidelines similar to those produced in Canada (Sleddoog Welfare Guidelines and Best Practices). We worked together with the University of Lapland in setting the project.
In the summer of 2014, we were again busy with building. One of the big summer projects was a floored and roofed cage in the sick dog area which was just about built in time to be put to use by our two summer litters of pups!
On the main farm itself we also built 13 new cages, plus two new running fences, (including one, 'Shadey Pines', targeted at the older retired dogs) and all of the kennels and fittings required to fit these out
The sleigh shelter was extended and the souvenir shop stripped back to its bones so as to add insulation (which meant that the kota became the temporary store for everything from the souvenir shop in the summer).
The roof of the wooden kota got finished and the floor got underfloor heating and a layer of concrete (tiling it will have to wait until next year).
We also re-designed the front of the house area, added a small climbing wall for playtime, extended the yard lighting and added pallet boxes to extend our house-area poop composting capacity which seems to work really well.
Further afield we did more work on the cabin on the Palojoki river, adding a whole new cabin there for our winter safaris, plus carrying out fixing up work at Kelottijärvi.
Pasi's parent's mökki has also had a laavu (outdoor fireplace / lean-to) shelter added and the pillared base was finally enclosed.
On the company development front a lot of time and effort went into developing our website. This was our last summer running the Valimaa farm so we could once more turn our efforts towards developing our own farm.
We also set up the Lappish Association of Sleddog Entrepreneurs, having brought a number of companies together over the previous two years for an EU-funded quality project linked to sleddog businesses.
In the summer of 2013, the main building project was a new wooden kota on the farm area. Shorter multi-day safaris and even part of the itinerary of the longer tours now spend a night in this kota, which has sleeping space for seven people, electric lighting, power outlets, and fireplace for making meals and warm drinks. Staying for one night on the farm allows the clients to fully experience what it is like to live amongst so many dogs !
Other building projects in this summer included a small decorative windmill and well complete with our howling husky logos in the house yard, as well as a toddler's sandpit for outside playtime. We also added a drive-through extension to the garage area, so that quadbikes and other machines could be stored out of the elements year round and designed a pallet-box compost system for house waste and dog poop combined. We can't wait until next summer to see if it works!
Tim spent a lot of time in Valimaa redesigning the whole cage area and creating a new circle area.
2012 was the summer of Iona and Kit (and Tim, of course). Hence, it was an artsy-craftsy one (in which we also got a lot of small but important projects done).
We designed, and built, for instance, the farmhouse 'waste management centre,' which houses our recycling organisation systems and the general waste bins and is decorated with a sillouette of Pasi pulling a sled in the south pole...
And we re-oriented the wood store, since we had noticed that there was more wind-blow of snow onto our cut timber from the north than from the sides where we used to have the cladding..
On the farm itself, we built a souvenir shop, (primarily just so that we had a heated space into which we could put cold people after safaris) which led into us developing things like our own postcards, silver pendants of our husky logo, calendars, mugs, postage stamps etc (ie it ended up being quite a bit more work than just the building itself!).
And, as if we didn't have enough design-based work to do, we created a whole bunch of pyrographied signs for around the farm, including on the door of the souvenir shop.
And we made QR codes for many of the farm signboards...
On a more practical level, we also built a floor base for our fabric kota to make access safer during the slippiest times of the season..
And a new log shed for the farmhouse area.
We also started work on a new cabin on the side of the Palojoki river.
In the summer of 2011 we built an insulated extension onto the end of our house for two reasons: a) so that we could stop using the kitchen table as the main office and b) so that we would have a larger space in which clients and guides could change into and out of their winter clothing and have coffee and cakes when there was time.
This was also a big summer redesigning and rebuilding the Valimaa farm. Indeed, during the summers of 2010-2014, concurrently with all of the above building projects, we were also juggling work on the Valimaa farm which we were managing for Transun UK and their subsidiary company, Santa Safaris. During the course of these four years we essentially re-built their whole dog-housing area, balancing erecting new cages with taking down the old, non-functioning ones, creating a floored and roofed sick-dog area, as well as indoor housing for sick dogs, and a large number of quality, insulated kennels. We made name signs and heat signs for all of the dogs and improved the asthetics and standards of the cage area.
We repaired and replaced many sets of lines for use in training and safaris. We also rebuilt the interior of the main cabin, and provided sleeping spaces for the guides so that they no longer had to wake up in sleeping bags frozen to the floor. In essence we took over a farm in a state of near disaster and, using primarily our own tools and resources (since they weren't supplied), we went above and beyond our remit in trying to create the best possible environment in which their dogs could live.
Summers here are very active and guides have to be both talented and motivated in order to juggle new construction, equipment fixing and preparation for the new season and, of couse, the current priority w.r.t. the training of the dogs. If we don't get through as many things as we need to, each summer, too much is left on the shoulders of the winter guides.
We also added a gear store onto the end of our garage to have all of our outdoor equipment stored in a systemised and accessible way.
And we not only scavenged a lot of wood from the local tip to add 'creative' agility course obstacles to our nature trail (thus making it an agility trail)...
...but we also started work on our GEE HAW training maze which we have been adding to, ever since.
In the summer of 2010 we built a drive-through shelter at the back of the garage for the snowmobiles, sleighs etc used during the winter. In addition, we put up 8 new back-to-back cages including the larger than normal puppy hilton and the puppy kindergarten cages and the special kennels for each of those.
One of the big summer projects was cutting an inner training track on our own land so that there would be a more extensive track network for use in both the summer and winter training season. Our last project of the season was to fence the entire sick-dog area to protect the dogs in that area from potential predators (like the marauding wolves of the previous winter).
In the summer of 2009 we built a running fence behind our main cages, extended the cage and holding post area as well as the length of the chains on all of the running circles and built a sleigh shelter and a puppy teepee play area for pups and clients alike to have fun in.
We also reworked the cage area near the house and turned it into a sick-dog facility.
The summer of 2008 was our first summer with the dogs. During that summer we not only fenced the whole perimeter of the farm, put up the log shed, toilet and frames for the two kotas but also built sufficient cages and running post areas to house 44 dogs - our starting number.
At the same time, we created a trail network around the perimeter of our property for both autumn training and for our shortest safari options, and we played a very small part in building the holiday house belonging to Pasi's parents, on the far side of Lake Ounasjarvi, which they kindly let us use as a stopping point on our longer safaris.
During 2007 Anna spent time consulting on the BS 8848 Standard for organising and managing visits, fieldwork, expeditions, and adventurous activities outside the UK. The RGS-IBG was on the BSI technical committee that first drafted the standard in 2007, and was involved in its revision in 2014. The current edition of the standard was published in April 2014 and reviewed without change in 2019.
The standard aims to reduce risk from injury or illness and provides those that comply with the standard with a way of being able to demonstrate that they are following good practice to manage the venture safely.
BS 8848 specifies operational requirements for organisers of a wide variety of ventures. These include adventurous and educational activities abroad including university and academic fieldwork, gap year experiences, adventure holidays, charity challenges and research expeditions.
BS 8848 is nationally recognised as an important way in which organisers can demonstrate that they have good safety practices in place when offering to provide any venture outside the UK. Many of the major overseas providers are declaring conformity with its requirements.
BS 8848 has been designed and built on existing UK guidance and through wide consultation to create an agreed national standard that will benchmark current good practice in safety management procedures. It is aimed at both those who organise such ventures and those who participate. All who understand BS 8848 will be better informed about the risks and safety management procedures that good practice indicates should be in place before any agreement to take part is distributed and signed. You can view a copy of the standards in any university or public library.