We live in such a remote region that there are only three shops within 100km of us. Hence, trying to source goods sustainably, utilise short supply chains and keep money circulating in the local economy can be quite challenging, particularly when dealing with specialist equipment and supplies. However, since this is something that is always in our minds, we work cooperatively with other farms so as to order and collect things from afar at the same time to minimise transport costs and to reduce emissions created by the transport of goods over long distances.
Wood needs that we cannot meet from our own farm, we get from local sawmills. We purchase reused or recycled products whenever possible – for instance, the waste material from paper mills that is used as a covering for our kotas - and then, in turn, we reuse and then recycle our own paper and plastics and monitor carefully the sustainability of use of our own wood resources. You can learn more about our sustainability policies, here.
Choice of Sleds
The majority of our client sleighs are toboggan sleighs – sleighs with a low carriage and closed bed, good at floating over deep snow - built by Bjorkis, a dog-sledding company operating out of Kiruna, Sweden. However, we also have one from Oinakka in Kiruna and a couple of slightly bigger basket versions built by Juha Pekka from Ivalo. These have a bed raised several inches above the surface of the snow, similar to the short-bodied sleds often used in racing. They are more suitable for larger passengers and families with more than one child who is too young to sit unaccompanied. We also have a couple of family freight sleighs (one a basket sleigh and one a toboggan sleigh) that are larger, heavier, sturdier and more difficult to drive because of their length – but which can take a whole family, driven by a guide. These are generally only used during our Father Christmas season!
All of our sleds have drag and claw brakes built in and runners which stick out behind the sled, on which the musher can stand. Guide sleighs and multiday safari sleighs also carry anchor brakes.
Other types of sleds also exist – eg the komatik, the traditional Inuit sled used in Canada and Greenland which is low-slung and which has no runners sticking out, so the musher sits or lies down on it, facing forward. The pulk is an additional type of (short and fat) sled used for pulka racing, where the dog is hitched to the sled which carries supplies or kit and the sled to the skier.
All of our sleighs are put away, post safari (rather than left lying around the farm in the snow) to prolong their life and enhance their safety. We have a custom-built shelter for the sleighs for this purpose.
Choice of Lines
We make a lot of our lines ourselves and also do all of our in-season repairs ourselves. However, we also purchase ready-made main lines from Muonionautotarvike in Muonio. With c. 15 companies operating within a 100km radius of Muonio, this has created a new market and equipment demand for local suppliers which has, in turn, created standardized designs for frequently utilized products like lines. Of course, we still have to size and splice our own backlines but this makes the starting point a lot less work.
We have an in-house document called 'how to make' lines written about making metal lines from scratch. An extract from it is shown here (click on the image to pop it bigger). If someone is interested in this kind of information, contact us for more details.
We also have an in-house guide for making necklines and we make about 200 of these, each year.
And a guide for splicing leads and making the skijoring lines we use when training the dogs in the summer, when skijoring (skiing behind them) in the Spring and when walking them to and from work and the guidehouse. Extracts from these are shown here.
Choice of Kennels
We make a lot of our kennels ourselves from locally sourced materials. All of the kennels in the cages, for instance, are made to our own design and have a double entrance so that there is no chance of one dog denying another access in bad weather. Learn more about our kennels here.
FYI we also took part in a research project looking into optimal dog-sled kennel design, the results of which can be found, in Swedish, here.
Choice of Harnesses and Collars
We use primarily Bjorkis harnesses since these are ideal for our fluffier Siberian-style dogs. All of our harnesses are colour-co-ordinated. The pups start with black harnesses which have reflectors on them. They graduate into pink training harnesses and then, finally, into the smallest (black) of our adult harnesses.
Whilst some of our females stay in black harnesses through their working lives, many also work in yellow (our next size up) and some are even big enough for our standard blue sizing. Our very largest dogs operate in red, size 4, Bjorkis harnesses.
As with anything, we have a few dogs that are exceptions to the rule. These tend to be our more greyhound-like Alaskan huskies since these fit well within Manmat or classic Non-Stop harnesses. Hence, we have a few of those also in the mix for key dogs. Non-Stop now make harnesses designed more for sled dogs than just the hound-type racing dogs but since we already have a number of their classic harnesses colour coded to fit within our colour systems (eg their size 8 in red to match the Bjorkis size 4s), we don't want to add more confusion to the mix.
All of our female dogs and castrated males have red collars, while all of our male dogs have green, blue or black collars.
This is particularly helpful for siblings that look similar since it gives the new guides one more clue that they have grabbed the correct dog when trying to put teams together - thereby preventing unwanted pregnancies.
Maintaining Our Equipment
We take a lot of pride in the care of our equipment and we want to keep it in optimal working order. Hence, we carry out weekly checks of sleighs, lines, harnesses, etc and, indeed, of all of the cages and running circles on the farm. This way we can identify and fix problems almost as soon as they occur.
In the summer our area is filled with wonderful berries which, unfortunately, the birds enjoy eating as much as us. Hence, to prevent them pooping (really hard to scrub out) purple-coloured poop all over our sleighs, we cover the sleigh shelter with a netting to restrict their access.
We also have new building projects, each summer, which we try to complete before winter closes in - all of which are gradually targeted at improving the lives of the dogs and guides. It feels like a never-ending job since there is always something which needs to be built or fixed.