Thougts on weather and other specialities in Iceland
A herd of horses (with foals) enjoying the spring in may.
The growing season is short in Iceland. In the northern part, where we live, spring comes in the beginning of may, summer in june, and fall begins in september. The weather here is under much influence from the fact that we live on an island. We have a warm ocean-current, the gulf-stream, so the winters are not very cold, but they are a bit windy and in my part of the country (north) there is often lots of snow, but in the south there is often lots of rain. The summers are instead not very hot. So, we seldom have very bad weather, but also seldom very hot weather. Summer temperatures on good days are often around 70°F (20°C) while winter temperatures on extremely cold days go down to 0°F (-17°C). Temperatures outside these extremes are almost unheard of. The most common temperatures are in the range from +5°C to -5°C.
We looooove being fuzzy in the wintertime. Icelandic youngsters having a good time.
So, what is Iceland like? Here is a little bit of “Iceland for beginners”, or “thoughts to bring back memories for friends of Iceland”.
Iceland is a volcanic island in the North Atlantic Ocean, so geologically it’s a pretty young country, made out of black lava and young rock species.
There is very little forest in Iceland, and since it’s also an island, there is some wind the majority of time. It takes a long time (the trees grow slowly here) and a lot of effort to grow trees here, but it is though been a big hobby for many Icelanders for the last few decades, and more and more small forests are popping up.
The lowlands are mostly by the coast, the highlands are mostly in the middle of the country. There is lush vegetation on the lowlands, and the lowlands are the populated areas, but the highlands are beautiful and popular for travellers.
The country is very big compared to the number of inhabitants, there is a lot of space per person.
The nature is very variated, with glaciers, green pastures, highland grass areas, waterfalls, geysers, mountains, cosy valleys, ocean and a huge number of horses and sheep.
The ratio of horses to people is a world record, around 80.000 horses to 300.000 people.
The horses roam a lot in big herds in huge highland areas or huge homeland areas, a big part of the year, where they can learn the herd dynamics, learn to talk “horse language”, and encounter all sorts of landscape, so they learn to be sure footed. In the winter time they are though usually in smaller areas, where it’s easier to bring hay to the herd.
Trekking is popular in Iceland by Icelandic horse people. Then a group of people decide to go on a horse trek together. Usually each rider then brings 3-5 horses (sometimes more), riding one at a time. The rest of the horses are driven in a group by the riders. Once every 1-3 hours the riders change horses, so they can always ride a fresh horse. The riders usually also stop frequently, maybe for 15 minutes every hour. This way, one can ride briskly for a long time, going in tolt or trot for 4-10 hours per day, and cover big distances in a fun speed, if the landscape allows. If the trek is going over steep mountains, or very difficult ground, then the riders of course switch over to walk.
The Icelandic Icelandic people are an extremely homogeneous group. Most descended from the original settlers who arrived in Iceland about 900 A.D. Generally, they are polite, hard working, friendly and non-judgmental. They often take time to get to know you, and it can take time to make them your friends, but then you also have a friend that will be there through thick and thin.
The weather changes very rapidly here. If you don’t like the weather, just wait and see for 10 minutes. You can see in the same day both wind, rain, sun, feeling great and feeling worse, all within a few hours.
Sheep are allowed to roam in most of the country, so from May-November, drive carefully, you don’t want to run into a sheep that is on the road. Asphalt roads can also turn suddenly into dirt roads, and dirt roads can be slippery, blind hills are also common. Generally, the road system is pretty good, but if you’re unfamiliar with how it works, it’s better to drive a bit slowly and safely.
8 riders, 18 horses, 1 church, up in a highland valley that was populated once but nobody lives there now, late summer, peace, space, good friends, lots of grass, birds singing in the distance, can life be more perfect?
Ábær church in Austurdalur, Skagafjörður.
You see small churches everywhere. In the old days, it was a rule of thumb, that a church should be within walking distance from every farm or place where people lived. It’s not uncommon that today, when distances are more easily covered, that one priest serves 4-8 churches.
Coffee means your welcome. Coffee is consumed in big quantities by virtually every home and work place in the country, and cakes or other treats accompany it in most cases. If you’re offered coffee, it’s the Icelander’s way of saying “you’re a welcome guest here and we want to be kind to you”. You might ask for tea or something else instead, but enjoy the warm message the question is bringing : )
Fresh water is abundant everywhere, and can be drunk out of every tab anywhere, the health standard for water is very high. It’s also safe to drink out of most creeks you run into in the nature.
In many areas warm water and the heating of houses is both very cheap and very environmentally friendly. The volcanic soil is simply providing warm water that is led into the houses. Some areas do though not have such “hot spring” waters, having to heat their houses with oil or eletricity, which is a lot more expensive.
The cheap warm water in many areas also make us swimming pool enthusiasts, it’s one of the cosiest things one can do, to go into a hot tub with 40-42°C warm water, any time of the year (also when it’s snowing). If you’ve had a long, tiring day, I reccommend a hot tub. Going to the local swimming pools/hot tubs is also cheap. Remember to wash in the showers provided, before entering the pool (it’s considered rude to enter without washing first).
Remember the mud, there is abundant water in Iceland, making mud sometimes a prominent fact of life. So, having shoes that are mud tight is a good idea. Also, in most houses it’s rude to walk into the house in outdoor shoes, as you are likely to bring in huge quantities of mud.
It’s also a good idea, if you’re coming to Iceland, to bring warm hats, mittens, even winter overalls or ski suits (if you’re in the time from September to May), as well as a t-shirt (and a swim suit for the hot tubs) to be ready for the changes in the weather.
Iceland’s farm stock is virtually free from contagious diseases. Help us keep it that way by washing all clothes in a washing machine (or dry cleaner) that have been in contact with animals, before you come, and don’t bring undisinfected leather shoes or riding helmets. Other leather stuff (especially tack) should not be brought to Iceland.
There are big changes in the length of the daytime. In the middle of the summer, there is daylight 24 hours a day. Who wants to sleep then? Icelanders at least, have a tendency to enjoy the midnight sun, even go riding in the middle of the night, or hold a midnight golf tournament. In December on the other hand, the day only lasts between 10 in the morning untill 4 in the afternoon. Not surpricingly, Icelanders love the Christmas lights, putting light decorations on most houses in all colors.
The animal colors are very variating. It never became fashionable to have each species in just one color. So the sheep are black, white, brown, grey or spotted. And the cows and horses have almost endless color variations.
The horse people are a big group here, so a lot of things are done by the communities for them. There are stable communities by most towns, where each family has maybe half a stable, and there can be dozens or hundreds of horse people in the same stable community. That makes it easy to build a competition track together, or even a riding arena or club house. And, riding paths are numerous all over the country, often made by the communities.
Lamb meat, and fish, is eaten in big quantities here, beef, chicken and pork is also eaten a lot. Vegetables are gaining more and more popularity, but the “standard dinner” is often lamb, potatoes and gravy.
In our volcanic island, small earthquakes and volcanic eruptions happen occationally, but virtually never pose any danger. Nobody has died because of either thing within the last 100 years, f.ex., but eruptions are more of a “fun theme”, coming on news and even attracting tourists big time, when they happen.
Whale watching is a more dependable pastime, as several services in Iceland offer whale watching and bird watching.
Standard of living is good in Iceland, with a good social service and health service. The taxes are high, but instead people are well provided for. The taxes are especially high on liqour (the best place to buy that is the tax free store in the airport), especially in restaurants and gas.
For food, there are a few dishes to highly reccommend. The agriculture is almost biological, pesticides, antibiotica and herbicides are almost unheard of. The lamb is naturally spiced with wild plants when the sheep roam in the highlands, and is delicious. Skyr is a milk product that is wonderful with fruit and cream, and the dairy products generally in Iceland are very tasty. The fish is fresh and served in endless varieties.
Work in Iceland
Work in Iceland
We, just like many other farmers in Iceland, are often asked whether we are looking for a helping hand. When we do, we advertice it on the front page, but you can also ask us if we are currently looking for a worker.
But when we’re not, there are also several sources through which you can find farmers that are looking for hands. Here are some of the ways and places you can contact. I am not connected with those sources, but am putting this up in hope of helping some of the many people that are browsing and looking for work. Remember that you have to put a country code in front of the telephone numbers. Also, if you simply want to come to Iceland on a short holiday, and learn as much about horses as possible in that time, feel free to contact us, we frequently get visitors that want to learn.
ADVERTICE IN ONE OF THESE PLACES:
EES-working agency (EURED).
Telephone +0354-5547600. E-mail EURES@svm.is
Adverticing in the classifieds in Bændablaðið is a good place if you are looking for generaly work on farms in Iceland, f.ex. dairy farms, sheep farms, mixed farms (f.ex. cows and horses). It’s the farmer’s monthly magazine, goes to all farms in Iceland, so every farmer has an oppurtunity to see your advertisment.
0 107 Reykjavík
Telephone 563 0300
Feykir is a newspaper that covers the north-west of Iceland and goes to most farms in Húnavatnssýsla and Skagafjörður, and it is good to put an advertisment there to contact farmers.
Telephone: 453 5757 or 854 6207
Fax: 453 6703
Feel free to contact me if you want to ask me whether I know something about the farms and farmers that reply to your advertisments and enquiries. I would be glad to know if this helps.