Sunday, August 23, 2009

Autumn Chores

Even though I'm still at my place of employment, my mind is racing ahead to chores that must be completed between now and freeze-up. When you consider that we've already had some hard frosts, freeze-up really isn't all that far away.

One of my projects is to renew my Mush with P.R.I.D.E. Kennel Certification. In addition to having the kennel inspected, I also needed to shoot some current photographs. Two of them were taken from the large, enclosed deck at the end of my house, overlooking the dog yard.

This view is looking towards the northeast. You can just see the top of the "garage pen", a 500 square foot "L" shaped pen that is accessed from the garage, at the rear of the building or through a 'manway gate' just beyond the larger, white entrance gate in the photo. Chinook and Seamus were housed in that pen when the image was captured. Along the top row of houses, from closest to furthest, are Abner, Cassiopeia, Orion and Torus. The lower row in this view included Grace, Daisy (at the yellow painted doghouse), Beau and Sheenjek.

This view, looking toward the southest, shows the other half of the kennel. Rose and Gump were hanging out in the 200 square foot 'isolation pen', and Just, Capella and Nels were housed in the southernmost row of tethers.

Before I left for my place of employment I had discussed with my friend and training partner Lynn Orbison the need to purchase straw for bedding material. During winter a thick bed of straw in each house provides the dogs with a comfortable, insulated space. Straw also provides bedding in each compartment of the dog truck. Straw needs to be refreshed frequently, and sometimes replaced if it becomes wet and icy. I need about 1 bale of straw per dog to get through the winter, and a few spare bales generally get used up as well.

I recently received an Email from Lynn, reporting that she has purchased the straw I'll need on my behalf. I'll repay her for the cost when I return home. Tonight I saw an announcement on one of the mushing Email subscription lists I belong to that a local musher has purchased a truck load of 550 bales of straw, which she's making available at $6.00 per bale. Comparable to the price that Lynn paid for our needs, it is about half the price charged by our local feed companies for the same product.

I'm going to have another short R&R this time, as I have to fly to Kentucky for a week of work related clinical training, which I can combine with a visit with my friend Janece Rollet. When I finally do make it home I'll have only a week to myself, and moose hunting season will be open so I need to plan on spending most of that time out in the woods. Although the odds of success are relatively slim, the benefits are great. A bull moose would put nearly half a ton of healthy lean meat in the freezer, allowing me to cut my grocery expenses considerably. It would also provide bones, fat and butcher scrap for the dogs and a moose hide processed into either rawhide or leather has hundreds of uses.

When I return home for my next R&R I'll need to pick up the large galvanized water tubs from the yard, shut off and drain the outside water faucet, and drain and roll up the hose for the season. There is no benefit of having tubs of ice in the kennel, and a frozen hose or broken water line can be expensive to repair or replace. Next R&R would be a good time for me to inspect all of the hardware in the yard, and make any repairs or replacements that are needed. I'm pretty sure I'll need to replace a couple of swivel posts as these strong, active dogs have bent a couple of them pretty significantly, and one can only bend them back straight again so many times before the metal becomes work-hardened and brittle. Better to replace them now than to loose access to a post when the ground is frozen too hard to drive in a new one.

Neither of those little projects should take a lot of time. I can probably get both tasks done in less than two hours. I'll need to inspect all of my mushing equipment and make necessary repairs, or at least put together a list of materials needed for making repairs during the following R&R. Although it seems early, I'll need to break out my winter gear and take inventory. I'm sure I'll need to order some clothing, it's just a matter of determining how much and which items.

Sleds need a thorough once-over and I'm sure I'll need to do some work on them as well.

Meanwhile, though, I'm still here at my place of employment. That doesn't mean wasted time, though. I have two speaking engagements lined up for the next couple of months. In October I'll be presenting the topic of dog mushing during the northwestern fur trade at the Alaska Dog Musher's Association symposium in Fairbanks. In November I'll be presenting two topics at the North American Voyageur Council's Annual Fall Gathering. I will speak on dog mushing in the northwestern fur trade, and follow that up with a presentation on reenacting historical dog mushing practices. My current project here at my place of employment is putting together the PowerPoint slide shows for those presentations.

The weather is cooling and I'm feeling the change of seasons. Now is the time to make sure I'm ready for the cold winter ahead, because ready or not - winter is on it's way.

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