Back from a couple of very interesting days in Finland.

I have written about this before, but up there on the northern edge of Europe, the Finnish arborists are quietly creating something very interesting and meaningful.

From the get-go, the gender distribution in Finland was pretty much balanced 50/50, which is unique as far as I am aware. In no other country have I so far come across anything comparable. The thing which is so striking is how it feels very organic and natural (as indeed it should!). Seeing the Finnish arborists, men and women, interacting with each other gives me hope in regards to the crass imbalance we see in most other places. These women are simply mucking in and getting the job done, at all levels, in all positions, from admin and consulting, to dragging brush or felling and pruning work.

For me, during the workshop days, another thing became apparent in as much as it was striking that I noticed very little posturing or puffing up going on (no shortage of that in other places, mind you). People simply turned up, were switched on, attentive and receptive to my ramblings. From a presenters point of view this makes it very easy to work with the group, making it a true pleasure. I wonder if it would be possible to condense a bit of Finnish attitude into tablets and distribute them around?

Day one was a rambling, spiralling session, starting on a discussion about resilience, moving on ascent techniques and configurations, we also touched on climbing techniques, ropes, tools, rings and other… stuff. All of this in an indoor climbing gym, which I was quite grateful for in view of the damp, chilly weather outside.

Day two was about crane felling. The forecast was for strong winds and snow. Umm…

We started indoors with a session addressing the whole planning process and the selection of suitable tools and machinery. Then we had a quick break for coffee and to move everybody to the site for the practical part of the session. I have to admit that I was quite nervous about the whole thing: iffy weather conditions, unknown site, crane and operator – and 45 people watching. Not what one would describe as an ideal situation. But hey… step by step.

We got on site, nice compact little three axle Liebherr mobile crane waiting for us and a chunky Birch to remove. Got all the gear ready, had a talk with Latte, the crane operator and Tapani, whose client it was to discuss how to proceed. Then went through the risk assessment with the whole group, Florim took on the role of site coordinator on the ground. After discussing attaching to the hook, Latte lifted me into the tree.

We lifted the tree out in five picks, the loads came up pretty much as we estimated them. But I was really struggling with the weather conditions. The wind chill off the ground was considerable, by this time the wind had really picked up and it was snowing hard – and I only realised afterwards that my thinking was being affected by the conditions. The result? Saw got jammed twice. I was quite annoyed by this, as it is not something that normally would happen to me. Unfamiliar saw, unfamiliar spikes, difficult conditions, it all came together…

Here is the thing: It would never occur to me to suggest that I am perfect – far from it, I stuff things up regularly. But I try to learn from mistakes to live another day to make new ones. In this case, it was a matter of not losing my head and getting the crane to do unreasonable things, for instance by pulling like crazy to unjam the saw, but rather to work it backwards, understand the problem and resolve it. Which worked out fine. So the message here was that: work you plan, if things go wrong, work backwards, resolve the issues, then move on.

I was bloody glad to get indoors though, I kid you not!

The afternoon was mercifully spent indoors, discussing slinging loads modelled on the tripod with our hook model. I must say that I was very glad for all the prep that went into this event, shipping up the gear a couple of weeks back and also very thankful for all the work which Marika of SPY, the Finnish arb association, invested into making all this possible and feasible.

Friday then was the SPY annual seminar. I really enjoyed simply spending time with this interesting group of people. I got do two presentations, one on the legal framework for working on trees in Europe and the other on the arborist mind-set, both of which I thoroughly enjoyed. Oh, and then, to boot, there was the SPY christmas party in the evening, involving bowling, beer and an Irish pub – need I say any more?

Trips like this make me realise what a privilege it is to be able to travel and meet many different tree people in many different places. It is stimulating, challenging, fun and inspiring, all at the same time. Thank you to everybody who makes this possible.