A week without amenities on the island – how do modern shepherds live and why do thousands of people queue up to graze their sheep?

<1> <2> <3> Every year the Finnish Forest Authority looks for shepherds for the sheep, who are sent to graze in the country's national parks in the summer. According to the Forestry Administration, this year 800 people wanted to graze sheep on the island of Yaryansaari in Kajaani alone. Of these, the lot fell to seven lucky ones, who will take turns looking after the sheep in the protected Finnish landscapes. <4> <5> <6> Heidi Heikkinen <7> is one of seven shepherds who will graze sheep on Jaryansaari this year. The Shepherds' Weeks campaign, organized by the Finnish Forestry Authority, has become so popular in recent years that the shepherds have to be chosen by lot from hundreds, sometimes thousands. So, in the summer of 2020, more than 700 people wishing to spend a week on the island in the society of bleating wards applied to the Yarya reserve alone. Of these, 11 were selected, but in the end not all got to the island due to the situation with the coronavirus. <8><9> In total, in 2020, more than 15,000 people applied to participate in Shepherd's Week. The place was received by about 130 people. <10> <11> <12> <13> <14> <15> <16><17> <18> This year there were already 800 people who wanted to get to Yarya, and seven will eventually spend the summer outdoors, grazing sheep and care of nature. <19> <20> Shepherds can also bring friends or family members to the reserve, but no more than 4 people at a time. Heidi Heikkinen took her daughters 7 and 9 years old with her. <21> <22> Shepherds should not only watch the sheep, but also observe their condition, count them daily, in order to catch the fugitives in time, change their water and drive them from the pasture, where the grass have already plucked, for a new one. If desired, the shepherd can also do other physical work – there is enough of it on the island. <23> <24> – The work is not difficult, the main thing is to make sure that the sheep do not run away, they would have food and water. Sheep love the company of people and often come to our cottage, so it's better not to leave your shoes outside, they will immediately chew them, Heikkinen laughs. <25><26> According to Heikkinen, a week on shepherd's bread exceeded her expectations. Especially the daughters of Heikkinen, Marta and Sülvi, had to live on the island and play with the lambs. <27> <28> It is noteworthy that the position of a sheep shepherd is paid, that is, the shepherd not only does not receive a salary, but he himself must pay for the opportunity spend a week in an unsophisticated hut far from all amenities. On average, a week costs 400-700 euros, depending on the location. <29> <30> In Yarya, the shepherd's home is a small cottage equipped with solar panels installed on the roof. This is the only source of electricity. There is no running water on the island, but there is a well. <31> <32> Why do people go to the wilderness to graze sheep? <33> <34> According to the Forestry Administration, there are a variety of people among the shepherds, including many families with children. Feedback from the shepherds is positive. <35><36> – This is an opportunity to stop the hustle and bustle, slow down, calm down and focus only on what is really important. Our shepherds often mention how living in a simple hut without amenities and often even without electricity helps them to distract themselves from various gadgets and find time to communicate with their families and themselves. It is also important that people participate in important work to protect nature, – comments <37> Hannele Kyt К <38> from the Forestry Office. <39> <40> The payment that shepherds make for their stay in the reserve goes to the maintenance of natural objects all over the country. <41>

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