Week 3 – Orienteering, Clearing Meadows and Thumbing Lifts

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Started the week with a walk in a nearby forest to observe birds and plants. Got introduced to some more mushrooms – some edible and some deadly. One that I will definitely remember was the destroying angel, the name says it all, eat this mushroom and you’re probably going to die. Symptoms do not appear for 5 to 24 hours, when the toxins may already be absorbed and the damage (destruction of liver and kidney tissues) irreversible. As little as half a mushroom cap can be fatal if the victim is not treated quickly enough! On a lighter note we the also found many brittle gill (pictured below) and gypsy mushrooms – which are both edible, and very tasty.

All this information that is being taught about edible plants, mushrooms and berries is new for me. But, even after 3 weeks of study,  we’ve learnt so much about readily available food and herbs around us in the fields and in the forests. It feels like this kind of knowledge would be beneficial to all and a good skill to have. I propose mushroom, plant and berry knowledge on the school curriculum.

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We were featured in the local Kuru paper, and a Journalist spent the day walking through the woods with us. The picture below shows the article, which unfortunately I cannot read, other than the names of the non Finnish students. But if UK papers are anything to go by, the headline probably loosely read something like ‘Immigrants from Europe stealing Finnish students places’, ha.

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Expedition planning

Mikko discussed kit with us on the Tuesday, about what kit is essential and how to pack your bags. We covered some practical tips, and advice such as:

  • Always have a ‘survival kit on’ you (in your coat not your bag) when doing expeditions. Matches, lighter or firestick, map and compass and knife. In case you get lost, or find yourself in a compromising situation – should be enough to see you through.
  • Have a backup compass in your bag, it might break
  • Get a 100% waterproof bag for your sleeping bag – keep it dry.
  • Pack your stuff in your bag vertically so it is easier to get out
  • Put all your food in one pouch so it is easier to get out
  • A collapsible bucket – for collecting water
  • Reflectors for your tent – can be hard to find in the dark if you go for a midnight pee
  • Thermometer
  • Little first aid kit
  • Water bottle
  • Duct tape
  • Strong thin rope
  • Telescopic fishing rod
  • Little foam square for sitting on

We also went over all the types of clothing that is appropriate and the layering systems and the pros and cons of natural versus synthetic materials.

AND, unrelated to kit but still awesome is that we found an old table tennis table in one of the store rooms! It’s a bit rough round the edges but will do just fine.

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Visit to Tampere

We visited the Pyynikki observation tower in Tampere, it is located on top of the world’s largest esker which is over 150 meters above sea level. An esker is a long, winding ridge of stratified sand and gravel, said to have formed in the formerly glaciated regions of Europe and North America. The views over the city and the two lakes were great. They even had a little cafe selling doughnuts, even the Frenchman and the Hollander, the kings of the pastries, were impressed.

Henkke, our tutor, took us on a tour of the town, showing us all the places we could buy new kit. Rather than being intrigued by the nicest pieces of goretex, I was drawn to the ones that would help me look more like a lumberjack, hmmm. Another highlight of the day was finding some cassettes for the school vans. Managed to cover a broad range of genres from 90s Finnish Haus, Folk Songs from around the world and funk. One of the Finnish guys was shocked with the lyrics in the funk tape, apparently it was quite racist! Oops.

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Meadow Clearing

We cleared a meadow in the town of Pyynperä. The lady who owns the land is now to old to cultivate it herself, and the population of sheep and goats is too low to keep the field well trimmed. So each year, the students from IWG go and clear the field. The field was cleared using traditional hand tools – the scythe, the hand scyth, a fork and rakes. Certain flowers are marked an then cut around to allow their seeds to spread and boost their population. It’s a good chance to get familiar with local flora and fauna of the area. We encountered loads of crickets, the one in the picture is called a Wart Biting grasshopper, and has powerful jaws. It was a tricky bugger to catch, but once on Mixu’s hand, he posed for a good 5 minutes whilst we took photos before he jumped off.

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As we are learning about new plants and how we can use them, we are starting to integrate them into our meals. We added the leaves and flowers of yarrow, the leaves of gout weed and the leaves of lovage to a gherkin stew we made on Thursday night.

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Friday – Game Triangle

We spent Friday orienteering a 12km game triangle – a method hunting clubs and scientists use to calculate the amount of certain species of birds or animals in the area. You follow the triangle on the map, recording the amount of species that you encounter on the way. We were specifically looking for hazel hens, black grouse and capercaillie. We saw about 12 black grouse if I remember correctly, well 12 flashes of feathers and thrashes of the wings as they fled in complete panic when we stumbled upon them. The walking was tough, and the pace slow as we made our way through a combination of dense forests and bogs. It averaged about 1.5km and hour, this was on a sunny day with light packs – still a long way to go. To keep direction as straight as possible we took bearings and followed features on the map  to guesstimate our location and try and keep as best as we could to the triangle. Walking in such straight lines is an unusual orienteering activity, and wasn’t without its problems. But through a group effort and some logical thinking we completed the triangle. To our surprise, Miko, our tutor, said it was the first time that a group had completed the whole triangle! Excellent news.

During the day we found a load of mushrooms, so for dinner we cooked them all up and had a mushroom and pasta feast!

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Hitch Hiking

The people who remained at the house over the weekend all needed to visit the city of Tampere to pick up some gear on Saturday.The only bus from Kuru to Tampere was at 4.30pm and the only bus returning from Tampere to Kuru was at 3.30pm – not ideal. So instead, we hitch hiked. 5 of us were heading in so we split into 2 pairs and a single and then positioned ourselves along the road at different points. It only took 15 minutes before a Merc swerved over and let us in. Marcus the driver, a Finnish Kenyan – was an African man in a white man’s body (his words not mine). Vocally he was Finland’s version of Brian Blessed, a booming, passionate man, admitting that he was often heard before he was seen. Funny enough, whilst writing this post, I could hear a loud voice shaking the house, and it sounded familiar. I walked into the kitchen and it was only the guy who had given us a lift yesterday!! He had happened to pick up one of our flat mates returning on the Sunday, and stopped by for a coffee!

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2 thoughts on “Week 3 – Orienteering, Clearing Meadows and Thumbing Lifts

  1. Chris it looks like you are having an amazing time! Great idea about schools teaching about foraging for food! I would love to do a course one day so that we can make use of what is on our doorstep, I would love to pick mushrooms but terrified of choosing the wrong ones so maybe I’ll need a lesson when you are home! We have got as far as blackberries……hmmm. Photo’s are awesome, not sure Ben and Jerry’s is abundant when you are surviving in the wild though? xx

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    • Cheers Ness. Yeah it’s been great so far. Haa, I was the same before, picking up a lot now, so next time I see you we can go mushroom hunting. Some good advice I got, was once you have a few edible mushrooms you know, just pick them. That way you know what you’re getting. And can slowly learn others later, rather than trying to sort through a huge basket of random ones. Haha, Ben and jerrys is a rarity, hard to find in the wild! X

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