While at work, I haven’t had access to a high speed internet connection for personal use. Although I can use a dial-up connection to download Emails, it’s far to slow to use for more than the occasional update to my blog or FaceBook account. Hopefully that situation will be resolved before I have to return for my next tour of duty. My company’s client has been promising a high speed “morale” connection in our living quarter for some time, but higher priority jobs have, of course, taken precedence. At last report, all of the parts are here and the necessary work is scheduled. Although stuff can, and frequently does, happen I’m hopeful.
Meanwhile, some interesting news articles and a pretty heated dog-mushing related controversy have captured my attention the past few days.
It’s no secret that Alaskans pay the highest heating prices in the United States, and the further one lives away from the road system, the higher those prices are. Understandably, many Alaskans turn to solid fuels as a lower cost alternative to fuel oil or wallet-draining propane or electrical heat. In the treeless coastal regions, firewood can be very scarce which simply creates additional hardship for the people.
When I read the headline “Firewood offers rural Alaskans alternative to crippling expense ofheating oil”in the Alaska Dispatch on-line news site I was intrigued. The emphasis of the story is on a rapidly growing fire wooding operation (we sometimes refer to these folks as ‘wood rats’) that has gained tremendous support from the Coastal Village Regional Fund, including the use of the heavy equipment necessary to deliver 1,000 cords of wood for distribution to 20 coastal villages.
As I read the story I thought about my friend Kyle Belleque, of Dillingham. Kyle runs traditional working dogs similar to my own, and in fact some of my best dogs have come from his Nushagak Kennel. Among the many subsistence related jobs his dogs perform is hauling the firewood needed to heat his home. At one time Kyle was considering a commercial wood-rat operation, using his team to transport the wood he harvests to paying customers. Although he moved on to other things, including organic farming and commercial set-net salmon fishing, I can’t help but wonder if this might not yet be a viable plan.
Sometimes seemingly unrelated events half a world away have significant impact close to home. I’m thinking of Lance Armstrong’s anti-doping case, in which Mr. Armstrong capitulated, essentially pleading guilty to charges of using performance enhancing drugs throughout his bicycle racing career. The notoriety of the case has apparently prompted the attention of dog mushers interested in participating in the International Federation of Sleddog Sports (IFSS) 2013 World Championship, hosted by the North Pole Economic Development Council (sort of).
With lofty visions of dog mushing becoming an Olympic sport, IFSS requires mushers in their events to adhere to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code. Although procedures and banned substances for humans had drawn little more than grumbles from aging mushers who may be required to provide medical records in support of Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs), the banned substance list for dogs has many of us in an uproar.
Rather than repeat the various arguments floating around, I’ll just refer you to the Sled Dog Central forum, where the topic is currently being discussed - http://www.sleddogcentral.com/forum/topic.asp?TOPIC_ID=12021
The season continues to progress at about a typical pace for this country. Saturday was just a gorgeous early fall day. At dawn there was enough frost on the puddles to warn us that serious cold is coming soon, but by afternoon one could comfortably walk about in shirt sleeves while admiring the golden leaves of the season. I’d guess about 75% of the birch and some 10% of the alder leaves have changed color around my work place. Within a week it’ll likely be 100% all around, and by the time I return from my R&R any leaves that remain on the trees will be browned, withered, and just waiting for the right stiff breeze to drop.
|Colorful Foliage along the Access Road|
We are losing daylight at a prodigious rate, about 7 minutes each day. This morning the official sunrise was 6:53 am, and the sun will officially set at 8:39 pm. The fall equinox is only two weeks away, just a couple of days before I return to work.
This coming R&R threatens to be busy indeed. Having focused most of the summer on major projects, including the kennel expansion and equipment shed, a lot of smaller but nonetheless important chores remain to be finished before the snow flies. These tasks must be juggled in and amongst the annual hunt for a moose AND early season training runs for the dogs. I’m honestly not sure how all of that is going to work out, because nearly every task shares a similar high priority on my “honey do” list.
If I’m diligent, and keep my nose pretty close to the old grindstone, I imagine I’ll accomplish at least most of the list and return to the job with few regrets. It’s all part and parcel of the pre-season rush and not particularly unusual, at least not unusual for me. If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, he doesn’t have much to work with when it comes to dog mushers, even if we are a bit ‘earthy’ in our language and manners.