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Year of Reindeer – Sustainable Rovaniemi blog series 3/4

September 23, 2020 Jenny Silvennoinen

On Arctic Reindeer Farm, high above the Arctic Circle lives Miia Merkku, reindeer herder, a woman who decided to become a herder at the age of five. Reindeer play a major role in Miia´s life. Miia`s own wellbeing, is twined with the wellbeing of her reindeer. “I spend all my days with them in nature, their happiness makes me feel at peace” Miia says. Welcome to a Sustainable Rovaniemi blog series, where our local people tell their arctic lifestyle stories.

Year of reindeer Miia Merkku

Autumn of Reindeer

“The Sami people call these wise animal pieggânjune, wind nose, for their capability to predict the winds. A day before the winds turn, these magnificent nomadic know, and choose their direction towards tomorrow´s wind.”

Autumn chores begin in September for reindeer herders. Important equipment like all-terrain vehicles and trucks need to be maintained for daily herding duties. An intense herding sequence begins from mid-September and lasts till the end of October, when herders are with their reindeer daily in the forests.

Reindeer roundups are a daily task, where reindeer are gathered either with all-terrain vehicles or with a helicopter to corrals where reindeer markings take place. In Lapland, reindeer meat is a local delicacy and the dishes prepared of this kingly meat are a big part of local heritage. Miia´s reindeer farm is one of the local producers of quality reindeer meat, in a way that reindeer are offered a good life in the arctic wilderness areas before their last day at the round-up. Miia handles this part of the herding as an honourable task, and she is there with her reindeer when this last day comes.

Reindeer are kings of Lapland forests and when a reindeer takes the last breath of Lapland air, nothing of this majestic animal is wasted, yet every piece from tail till antlers are used; meat as delicacy, hide, bones and antlers as valuable utensil.

Miia Merkku Year of reindeer Lapland Finland Rovaniemi

Autumn round-up

The arduous autumn round-up plays an important part of a healthy reindeer life. This is where the reindeer are checked and medicated against parasites. Sometimes these roundups take days, and weather ads to the experience:

“The Sami people call these wise animal pieggânjune, wind nose, for their capability to predict the winds. A day before the winds turn, these magnificent nomadic know, and choose their direction towards tomorrow´s wind.” Miia explains how in the summer the reindeer prefer the tailwind, because the wind lifts their silver-grey fur and cools their body in the summer heat. And in autumn and winter the reindeer travel towards headwind because the wind weighs the hair down to protect body heat.

Reindeer have many annual routes, for different seasons, weathers, and winds. This old wisdom is still used in herding. No matter how powerful the human machines or all-terrain vehicles are, a man can´t force the reindeer to change their paths. When forced they will scatter and disappear in the forests. Herder must work together with reindeer, in perfect harmony to persuade the reindeer gently. “Sometimes we lose and nature won´t grant us the “last reindeer”, but it is a true reward from the nature when the herd moves with you where you guide them”, Miia says proudly.

To be continued….

This is Miia Merkku´s story about her life as a reindeer herder woman. Welcome to a Sustainable Rovaniemi blog series, where our local people tell their arctic lifestyle stories.

Missed the first and second part of Year of Reindeer? Read them here:

Sustainable Rovaniemi blog series Miia Merkku Year of reindeer Sustainable Rovaniemi Miia Merkku Year of Reindeer Arctic Reindeer

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