Look, I like my job. I really do. When I’m driving around in the heat of a North Carolina summer, I am glad that my job allows me to spend the hottest part of the day inside with air conditioning.
That said, there are times I wish I could be outside more often. Much of my job involves removing obstacles so other people can do their jobs with less hassle. So I find myself in meetings, working on administrivia, and looking at e-mails and project plans way more often than actually building things. Granted, many of these things are necessary in order for things to get built in the first place, but sometimes I wish I could just say “give me some money and I’ll go build something wonderful for you”. Then again, sometimes I wish I could spend more time outside, since things seem simpler out there. There doesn’t seem to be so many things competing for my attention.
Anyway, I was in Sweden and I was a little upset. We are doing a huge project and I had flown thousands of miles to meet with a man named Lars, and he didn’t seem to have time to meet with me. I didn’t get any responses to my e-mails, etc., and I really needed to talk to him.
Well, I got my wish, but not in the way I expected. One morning he walked into the office, gave my shoulders a squeeze and said “Out front, 16:00, dress warm. We’ll be back sometime tomorrow morning” and walked off.
Note that the high temperature at this time was around -4C, with pockets in the north getting down to -20C at night.
This type of behavior in general is not unusual with Lars, but this particular behavior was a little unusual even for him. I was worried, since I didn’t bring real cold weather clothes, so after lunch Ronny and I drove into town to a sporting goods shop where I bought some thermal underwear and proper Swedish boots, gloves and a coat.
Thus armed I waited until 16:00 and then headed out to the parking lot. Lars was there in his Defender 110 along with his totally delightful fiancée Linda. Also joining us was Gollum, a slightly flatulent Boxer puppy that had a hurt paw and thus needed a little extra care, and Anders, a friend and new lieutenant of Lars.
Lars apologized for not being able to meet with me, but things had been crazy. I found out that he gets nearly 3000 e-mail messages a day, so mine got lost in the flood, and his phone pretty much rang constantly as we drove. Luckily, phone coverage was pretty spotty where we were going, so there was a chance for some peace and quiet.
We were hunting for moose.
Many years ago, Lars’ uncle started buying up land after the timber was harvested off of it. He did this over and over again until he had amassed over 42,000 hectares (103,700 acres or 162 square miles) of land and over 11,000 hectares of lakes and ponds. It is located along the Norwegian border near Bogen, which was a two hour drive away. We had a nice time talking both about life and work as we made the drive into the mountains, with occasional breaks to open the window to let it air out from the dog, and the snow getting slowly deeper and deeper as we would ascend into the hills.
Some of this property is leased, and they also have several businesses running off of it – mainly sport related such as hunting and fishing. The uncle made a rule in his will that only enough timber could be harvested in any given year to cover expenses, which while not small (they have nearly 3000 km of logging roads to maintain) insures that no relative down the line can strip the place bare. Everything is done with an eye on conservation so that the area will be available for generations to come.
As soon as we turned onto the property we startled two young moose, both about a year old. The first one ran off into the woods but Lars stopped the Rover, wound down the window and by covering his mouth and pinching his nose he made this weird sort of “mooing” sound. This caused the moose to stop and just stand there, and while he didn’t come closer he also didn’t run off. Not until we started up the car again did he leave.
We made our way up to a group of hunting lodges and got out to stretch our legs.
Lars has been known to tell the members of his executive team to come to the office prepared for a weekend retreat, and when everyone shows up expecting to spend the weekend in a luxury hotel, he has a helicopter drop down and cart everyone off to Bogen for a weekend in the woods.
Did I mention that I like Lars? (grin)
During the stop Lars cleaned off the lamps mounted along the top of the Rover, and we would need them as we drove around looking for moose and wolves. Wolves are a huge problem in the area, as they are both plentiful and cunning.
On one of the roads on the preserve it looked like every animal in the forest had come there to leave tracks. It had not snowed in a couple of days so there were tracks everywhere. Both Lars and Linda kept pointing them out: moose, wolf, hare and fox. The hares here grow really large, and sometimes it is easy to mistake the tracks for a those of a larger animal. Of course I am relying on Lars’ and Linda’s interpretation of things since both Anders and I were totally lost when it comes to tracking (Anders has lived in Stockholm since 1994).
We stopped at the spillway of a nearly frozen lake called Kivlamp to experience some of the cold first hand. While we were there another car pulled up and I got to meet one of the area’s caretakers, a man named Bosse. When he found out I was from the Southern United States he handed me his “varmint rifle” – a scoped .30 caliber – and offered to let me shoot it.
Now I don’t have much experience with shooting outside of some trap shooting with a 12-gauge shotgun, but I did my best. Bosse told me to aim for this rock out in the lake because if I hit it we could hear it. I think a lot of men believe they can shoot better than they really can, so the words of my father, a marksman in the Army, came back to me. He got his marksman’s medal, he said, just because he listened and knew how to follow directions. So I aimed, slowly squeezed the trigger, and heard a satisfying “ping” off of the rock. I was able to repeat this a second time to show it wasn’t a fluke (it was). It helped that it was a nice rifle with little kick.
I think it would be cool to hang out with Bosse for a little while and see the area through his eyes, but it isn’t an easy life so I wouldn’t want to do it for long.
After all the freezing, shootin’ and camaraderie, we got back in the cars and headed even higher. Lars found a wider than normal spot on the road, stopped the Rover, and proceeded to make a fire. When it was established, he pulled out a flat cooking plate on a tripod that would fit over the burning logs to provide a place to heat our meal. Once that was done, Linda took over and Lars and Bosse started another fire nearby, pretty much for warmth. It wasn’t extremely cold, maybe -10C (14F) but the wind had picked up. My Swedish gear was holding up pretty well with the exception of my gloves, so I would be sure to thaw them a little over the fire occasionally.
The moon was about half full and would peek out from behind the clouds from time to time (it was lightly snowing) and it was nice to look out into the woods while Linda cooked up a gourmet meal. Maybe it was the cold and maybe it was the company, but it sure tasted wonderful.
We spent a couple of hours up there before breaking camp and cleaning up (we had lots of snow to work with). Then we climbed back in the Rover to go and search for more wildlife. At one point Lars drove down the airstrip that they have up there (completely covered in snow, of course), and when he turned around all you could see was the tracks of his truck in the snow. Anders joked “oh, I can tell using my huge expertise that these tracks were made by a Land Rover Defender 110″ and I picked up on the joke, adding “and you can tell by the tread pattern that it is green”.
We didn’t see any more moose or a wolf, but that really didn’t matter to me. It was just fun to be up in some pretty, unspoiled country. Lars stopped by a river and let me get a picture of the ice, the snow and the stones – which was cool since you could see where the snow had fallen and the water had washed all but the stuff on top away.
On the way off the property we headed even higher until we were meters from the border with Norway.
Lars explained that during WWII there was concern that the Germans would drive tanks over the mountains, so we stopped to look at some stone obstacles that had been planted to prevent this from happening (I missed that picture, unfortunately). What was amazing was seeing how the terrain had changed – when we started out it was pretty flat, but now we had high mountains and deep valleys.
After midnight we headed home and then the biggest worry was that we wouldn’t hit a moose or that Lars would fall asleep (it wasn’t a big issue but he would joke about it). I told the old joke that I wanted to die in my sleep like my grandfather and not like his screaming passengers, and that got a laugh. We did see some deer and a couple fleeting glimpses of foxes on the way back, but otherwise it was uneventful.
I guess is is a bit of a Catch-22. I loved the entire evening, from the land to the company to the conversation to the food, but especially since it took my mind off work. However, without OpenNMS, I wouldn’t have had the chance to take this trip.
Kind of puts it all into perspective, doesn’t it?