Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Another Mission Accomplished

Yesterday I woke up not sure what I would do with the day.  It wasn't quite cool enough to risk running dogs, not quite warm and clear enough to risk painting the dog box on the truck, and not quite motivated enough to think up other useful projects.

While doing my morning kennel chores, I decided it was time to take a good, hard look at improving the kennel's 'launch pad'.

For the most part, I haven't been unhappy with my set up for harnessing and hooking up the dogs.  Ted, on the other hand, and certainly anyone else who might happen to be mushing a team with me, would be in for a real thrill on launching.  It's a matter of geometry.

When running a team by myself, I snub the sled to a birch tree, stretch out the gangline, bring the dogs over to a hookup line that is basically a semi-permanent picket line.  Next I harness the dogs, move each dog just a couple of feet to hook them to the gangline, open the gate and call 'em up.  Since the dogs are already pointed mostly straight down the feeder trail it is a pretty straightforward thing.

When hooking up and running a second team, it becomes a bit more difficult, because the musher of the second team has to picket, harness and hook up closer to the south fence of the yard.  On launching, the dogs take a slight right hand turn to get onto the feeder trail, which draws the sled scary close to the stout fencepost at the gate.  In the past I've clipped that post several times, at least once with some fairly serious consequences

With the installation of two new pens eariler this summer, I could afford to sacrifice one of the tie-out circles that was previously needed to house a dog.  The post of that tie-out offers a good, solid place to snub a sled during hook-up and launch and there was just enough room to snub most sleds and hook up a team of 6 dogs without having the gangline extend beyond the gate.  With a bit of measuring, however, I figured out that either running my much longer traditional toboggan or a larger team of 8 dogs would require opening the gate before hooking the dogs to the sled, offering opportunities for hyper-excited dogs to escape down the trail.

To remedy the situation would require moving the gate and adding some fence to extend the enclosure a few feet down the trail.  I decided to make that my 'project of the day.'

First, just to get access to the area in which I wanted to work I needed to mow down tall weeds and some brush.  Since my gas powered weed whacker is equipped with a combination weed and brush blade rather than traditional string trimmer, that was the tool of choice, and the job went pretty quickly.

Once I had an area in which I could easily walk around and see what I was trying to do, I "surveyed" the changes that would be necessary.  With a long tape measure I figured out where I wanted the gate to be located, and marked the locations for the two gate posts.  Then I stretched string to mark the new fence lines, and tied some surveyor's tape to the string to mark the locations for new fence posts, which are spaced at 10 foot intervals.

That was done more quickly than I had estimated, so I decided I might as well dig the post holes.  The post hole auger for the tractor made very short work out of a job that otherwise would have taken several hours.  Since I won't need to plant any more posts for a while, once the holes were drilled out I removed the auger from the tractor, and mounted the ballast box that helps counterbalance heavy loads on the loader bucket.  Dismounting the auger assembly was a bit more difficult than I had imagined, and the next time I need it I suspect remounting it may be a bit of a struggle.

Since I still had plenty of time, I decided I'd go ahead and plant the new posts.  I have a small pile of 10 foot long poles available from a project a few years ago to thin out the black spruce behind the house.  Spruce isn't the best material for fence posts, but since these were already seasoned and laying right in my back yard, the price was right.

I selected the largest of the posts for my gate posts, as they not only have to support the wire fencing, they also have to stand fast to keep it tight, and will most likely become the posts supporting the picket lines that are a key part of the whole hook-up line.  I then grabbed up a selection of the better (more solid) posts for the intermediate posts and braces for the two gateposts.  I used my four-wheeler to 'skid' (drag) all of those posts to my work area in one trip.

I learned how to plant fence posts as a kid growing up in the cow-country of western Colorado.  Doing it right is tedious, but the result is as solid as a rooted tree.  Putting the post in the hole is the easy part.  Next, toss in one shovel of dirt, and use the handle of that shovel to tamp it down as tightly as possible.  That's the tedious part.  When the shovel bounces when you toss it handle-down onto the packed soil, that's probably as compressed as you can get it with the tools at hand.  Put in another shovel of dirt, and repeat the process over and over and over and .... .  It took about two hours to plant all four the new posts.

With the posts planted I glanced at the time, and decided I was making good progress so there was really no reason to stop.  Hanging the new fencing was just a matter of measureing, using wire cutters to cut out the sections I needed, fastening the fencing to posts and then splicing the new sections of fencing into the old.

By the time I had the fencing up it was growing late in the afternoon.  I put most of my tools away, and started the dog good soaking for evening kennel chores.  Though I should have been thinking about cooking something for supper, my mind kept going back to the project.  All I really needed to do to finish up was to hang the gate.

The gates I use in the dog yard are very lightweight, made up of PVC pipe and hardware cloth wire fencing.  They are designed so they can be easily lifted to accommodate the increasing depth of snow through winter.  Mounting the gate really just required pounding in a post, slipping the gate over it, and walking away.  By the time that little job was finished, the dog food was ready for delivery. Here are some photos of the finished project.

Looking down the feeder trail from the newly configured hook-up line.  Not the bracing on the gate posts.

The four-wheeler is parked where a sled would be staged to hook up a team. 

View of newly relocated gate as seem coming up the feeder trail toward the yard.

Quebec Takes Responsibility and Pays $3 Million Redress for 1950s and 60s Inuit Dog Slaughter

According to an article on the Indian Country Today Media Network, the Canadian province of Quebec has agreed to make financial reparations for it's role in the mass slaughter of Canadian Eskimo Dogs during the 1950s and '60s. 

Jean Charest, premier of Quebec, signed the agreement personally with the Makivik Corp., a non-profit Inuit organization, to acknowledge that killing the Inuit’s primary means of transportation stripped them of their ability to hunt, trap and fish, and thus had lasting, detrimental effects on their way of life.
The report and resulting agreement settles any lingering doubts over what happened during the 1950s and 1960s, when the sled dogs of 14 Nunavik communities—in some cases a village’s entire population of dogs—were eliminated by Canadian authorities, ostensibly for health and safety reasons. Over the years first one party, then another, denied that it happened, then denied responsibility. But Makivik pressed on, and in 2007 a retired Quebecois Superior Court Judge Jean-Jacques Croteau was commissioned by the province to investigate and put the issue to rest.

 The slaughter, which wasn't limited to the province of Quebec, resulted in the near extinction of the breed, which is considered to be the oldest and rarest of North American indigenous dogs.  The breed exists only because of the dedicated effort of the Eskimo Dog Research Foundation.  Founded in 1972 by William Carpenter and John McGrath and largely funded by the Canadian Government and the Northwest Territories, the EDRF purchased dogs from the small (about 200 dogs) population remaining in the Canadian Arctic from remote Inuit camps on Baffin Island, Boothia Peninsula, and Melville Peninsula. The EDRF then began breeding dogs in order to increase numbers.

My puppy, Innoko, is said to be a mix of Eskimo dog, Alaskan Malamute, and Yukon River husky.

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