The weather doesn’t know what to do with itself recently, temperatures have been bouncing around the low positives melting all the beautiful snow. Nooo, fingers crossed for a decent snowfall soon, I’m itching to try out the old wooden forest skis.This week we visited Vapriikki Museum, had our safety passport exam, learnt some more about plants, had a big group meal, did some planning for the winter guiding task and went foraging for mushrooms and traditional fire starters. But first I want to tell you a story all about how an elderly lady named Carmen from the Costa Del Sol brightened up my Saturday.
I was on my way to the hardware store to pick up a sharpening stone and some files. It wasn’t far from the house that I noticed her, a lady of around 85, looking confused and wandering around aimlessly. She approached me with a smile and after a quick hello in Finnish I started speaking to her in English, but quickly realised she didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I was confused as she didn’t look Finnish and I couldn’t see her partner or family anywhere. Either way, I felt it was my duty to offer her a helping hand. I told her where I was heading, and said she should join me. I assumed someone at the hardware store would recognised her.
She must have understood what I meant, and we trundled silently the few hundred metres to the hardware store. I had to help her amble across the road. I asked her a few times in my best Finnish (which is terrible) how she was, but she didn’t answer. Once at the store I asked whether anyone knew who this lady was. No one did, so we called the police to see if they could help. They said they couldn’t come all the way out here at the weekend, as it was too far away, great! I sat down with the lady and waited at the store for a bit, asking some others if they recognised her, but no one seemed to – many also saying she didn’t look like she was from round here.
So with no real clues, I decided to take her back to the house, to see if my Finnish flatmates could help solve the mystery. We decided to go to the supermarkets, the church and pub in town, hoping that someone would recognise her and be able to help. We heard the same answers over and over – she didn’t look like she was from round ere’ and that no one knew her. Whilst in the supermarket we picked up some extra food for dinner incase she needed to stay the night. We were actually looking forward to having some extra company for a few days if that’s what it came to. Then, just as we were about to head home for the evening, one lady said she might have a lead and excitedly called someone. She led us to a Cafe round the corner, where we reunited her with her family. For most of this wild goose chase I was very confused due to the language barrier. But finally, we had managed to reunite Carmen the rescue dog, originally from the Costa Del Sol, with her owner. Her other dog had died a few weeks earlier so we think Carmen was looking for him. Heart wrenching. We got a reward of cake and coffee, and all felt like amateur detectives.
Less silly anecdotes and a brief overview of what we got up to during the week. We were eased into the week with an introduction from Sir David of course, watching a short documentary on large herbivores and the importance of their relationship with the plants.
The following day we visited the Vapriikki Museum in Tampere. A historic building situated on the river, it used to be old linen and iron manufacturing company – production included locomotives, turbines and damask cloths of linen. A little fact about Tampere, it is actually referred to as the ‘Manchester of Finland’ for its industrial past. Similarly to Manchester, the residents are also recognised for their unique accent.
The museum has over 12 exhibitions, but we specifically visited the Natural History Museum. Where Henkke, our tutor, gave us a crash course on Finnish fauna. One fact that stayed in my mind was about woodpeckers. When pecking away they put themselves through an insane amount of G force – 1200Gs infact! Click here for the science behind it. This explains why their flight pattern looks so drunkenly erratic.
Me and Martijn, the bearded Dutchman, went on a Sunday morning gather for some traditional fire lighting materials and mushrooms. Although we’ve had some snow and a lot of frost, the hardier mushrooms are still braving the weather. The trumpet chanterelles for example can still be found if you look hard enough. We didn’t find many, but still enough for a small lunch, fried them with onion and some leftover jerk seasoning and served them on rye bread. The picture below shows our pickings for the day. From left column to right we got wood sorrel (has a citrusy taste and is good added to salads), trumpet chanterelles (a bit frost damaged but still good), and wood hedgehog mushrooms (on further inspection were too mouldy to eat, but a really interesting looking mushroom that we hadn’t seen in the wild before). The rest of the pickings were some horse hair lichen, juniper bark, silver birch bark and tinder fungus. If you’re going to make a fire when out hiking it’s worth collecting some silver birch bark and juniper bark, as even in wet conditions they are a perfect fire starter, lighting easily and burning well. Tinder fungus smoulders with the smallest of sparks, and has been used for thousands of years to start and also transport fire. This is because once lit, the fungus will continue to smoulder for hours. However, preparing this magical fire fungus takes a serious amount of time and involves stripping the hard underside, removing the thick layer of gills, soaking it in either the sap of a silver birch solution or baking soda solution for a week, and then hammering it out and stretching it to form the soft leathery skin. I am going to prepare the fungus over the next few weeks and write a post showing exactly how to do this.