A life close to nature

Photo Mats Engfors/Fotographic

Hannah Levy and Jeremias Kinnunen fell in love with Lassbyn at first sight and moved here. Now they live a sustainable life close to nature and close to their dogs. Here they take tourists from all over the world on dog sledding trips in the beautiful Råne river valley.

The dogs immediately start barking when Hannah and Jeremiah step into the fenced area. The couple walks around and opens cages, releasing a couple of huskies at a time. The fogs run around for a while before they are petted, dressed in harnesses and take a seat in front of the sleds. When all ten are in place and the gate reopens, the mood is further raised. The dogs stomp, jump, howl and make leaps forward. Hannah lifts the snow anchor, shouts a short “Hay!”, And then it wears off.

Hannah and Jeremiah each drive a sleigh, together they ride through a forest and out on the river ice. Above snow-capped treetops on the southern shore, the sun shines behind bright apricot clouds and the landscape sweeps silently past.

– It is a fantastic feeling of freedom to go away on the river or in the forest where everything is completely calm and quiet. The only thing you hear is the dogs’ breathing and the runners sliding against the snow, says Jeremiah.

It’s -20 and the hoarfrost bites into Jeremiah’s red beard and the dogs’ whiskers. The drivers shout commands and the names of the guide dogs. They test a turn in the loose snow where the dogs can track and turn on command and Hannah and Jeremiah are more than happy with the performance.

– It’s very fun. I still remember the first time I was pulled by dogs. There is no better feeling than when the dogs work with you and you are part of a team, says Hannah.

The beginning of a love story

Hannah, born in Connecticut, USA, lived in downtown New York a few years ago and worked as a decorator in a store. She had studied art in London and had to create with her own hands, something she thought she would appreciate but she was instead deeply unhappy. She wanted to try something different, started googling for vacancies and found a job at a sled dog kennel in Alaska.

– I knew nothing but I got the job and had to learn everything there. I was in love and there was no turning back, she says.

She moved around and tested both Wyoming and New Zealand before landing in a small village outside Pajala.

Kalixbon Jeremias loved to dive and therefore took a job as a diving guide in Tenerife. But living there all winter was, according to him, far too hot. Instead, he turned his eyes home and ended up through Jämtland and Finland on a job as an activity guide in Särkimukka. There he found Hannah, who then worked as a sled dog guide.

Six months into the relationship, they walked the Green Ribbon together. 140 km in 68 days, it was a good test for the relationship, they think. Cooperation was a necessity and there was plenty of time for reflection and discussion. Afterwards, they were sure that they would live together and invest in something of their own.

None of the places they visited during the tour had really stuck with them, but when they visited a friend of Jeremiah’s in Lassbyn afterwards, it clicked.

– We fell in love with Råne river valley as soon as we started exploring the area, says Jeremias.

Part of something bigger

A year later, in April 2017, they moved here. Through acquaintances in the industry, they got hold of the first dogs and last winter they started the dog sled company Northern Soul Journeys.

– I have always loved dogs and their ability to do what they were born to do. They have such a developed contact with people and it’s cool to be a part of it. I really enjoy watching them work and learning to communicate in a way that they understand.

Just under 10 percent of the job involves standing on the sled, the rest of the time they put in chores such as taking care of the dogs, repairing things and caring for and detecting injuries. They always help each other and Jeremiah has learned all about the profession from Hannah.

– We work with 21 athletes and for them to perform and be happy, they need as good conditions as possible. But when you then go out and the dogs do a good job, it is very satisfying. It feels good to be part of something bigger and the dogs really give everything back, says Jeremias.

Here they take tourists on half-day trips in the beautiful Råne river valley, offer lunch and coffee by a warming fire.

– We want to share our lifestyle with others and I like to teach dog sledding and its history. We show our lifestyle and the naturalness of it. Sure, we not only get up and eat breakfast in the mornings – we have 21 dogs to feed too – but life in nature is easier than you might think, says Hannah.

Life close to nature

They live in a red old house in Lassbyn, close to the river and with the forest next to the house. Here they can literally go from the dog farm right out into the wilderness. Here is everything Hannah and Jeremiah love; hunting, fishing, gardening and dog training.

– I have to be close to nature, it has to be in my backyard. This is where we spend most of our time and this is where we are happiest, says Hannah.

– What keeps us grounded and makes us good people is nature, we depend on it more than it on us, says Jeremiah.

Sustainability is a key word in their lifestyle, precisely to manage the nature they love and ensure that it remains. They use what they have for a long time, do not throw it away but try to reuse and make new things from what has broken. The couple basically only eats locally produced food, such as game, beef and potatoes and all the food they offer the guests they have made themselves. For them, sustainability is about a holistic concept.

– We have a small company and a lot to do, you do not have time to make impulse purchases but everything is planned. When we live as we do, it becomes sustainable in itself, says Jeremiah.

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