We are FINALLY seeing break-up in the Interior, and as expected, it's a wet, muddy, mucky, slushy mess. Although I got off duty from my job on Tuesday, I spent Wednesday through Friday in training. I'm please to report that I qualified on all three weapons platforms quite handily. Those include pistol, shotgun and patrol rifle. Everyone on my shift trains and qualifies together, and our crews average score was well above 90%. It is comforting to know that the guys who will have my back if things go south are very well trained and competent.
Yesterday was my first day I could call my own, and Trish and I spent it doing break-up clean up around the place. I got a good start on cleaning up the yard next to the cabin, but it is truly an ugly mess. Although my former handler was pretty good at keeping my yard scooped and tidy, he was much less so about his own. It's going to take some serious work to prepare that area to safely house dogs during summer, when I hope to take advantage of the shade that upper yard offers.
All the dogs in my yard had opportunities to play "run amok" as I carefully cleaned straw out of houses, spread straw in the most mucky parts of the yard, and did general maintenance. There are a couple of dog houses that need to be rebuilt, but I can't do much until it thaws more as they are still solidly frozen in place.
All of the dogs were well behaved during their free-run time. Friday and Thowra, both less than a year old, were properly deferential to the other dogs. I decided to give Thowra some time in a pen with Capella, a young adult female. I think today I'll put young Friday in with Rose, and give Beau some time out on a swivel post.
We picked up garbage that spent the winter hiding beneath the snow, and hauled it to the dumpster station on the four-wheeler pulling a trailer. On the way back to the house apparently the drive belt on the machine broke, which triggered a safety switch to reduce power to the machine to next to nothing. That means I'll have to haul the machine to town for repair sometime this week. The sooner I get it in the sooner I can get it back and use it for dog training. This is the second time I've had this issue with the machine, so I'm thinking that I should probably plan to just replace the drive belt with a new one every year or two.
The equipment shed held up well over the winter, and I'm very pleased with that. The dog food shed wants a different roof, but I knew that even when I put it in service last fall. That is also a project I'd like to get to pretty quickly. Toward that end I currently have the dog food cache stored in the garage. The sooner I fix the shed the sooner I can reclaim the space in the garage. I'll need that space for an upcoming summer project.
We use a combination of pens and swivel post and chain tethers in the Stardancer yard. Normally we house a pair of compatible dogs in each pen. When we got home from dinner last night and were doing our evening kennel chores I was surprised to find four dogs in 1 pen, and the adjacent pen empty. I distinctly remembered putting Thowra with Capella in one pen, and Beau with Rose in the other. It turns out that young Thowra and Capella found a weak spot in the partition between the two, and took advantage of it to visit their neighbors. It took only a few minutes to repair the partition, but it was a bit of a surprise at the time.
Last summer's chicken raising project was so successful that Trish and I are going to build a year-round chicken coop to raise a small flock for eggs as well as meat. That means installing a better chicken coop, which will be a good use for one of the salvaged shipping crates I got last year. That's a project that needs to happen pretty quickly as our friends Ted and Clare are hatching chicks, and ours will be out of their eggs pretty soon. We will probably need to set up a brooder in the garage for their first few weeks of life, but they will need their coop and yard quickly. Fortunately, chickens don't require anything particularly fancy and once we have the coop installed we can work at preparing it for winter during the course of summer.
We have talked about putting in a garden, but with the late breakup that's not likely to happen this year. What we CAN do is prepare the garden area, tilling the space we want to use, pulling all of the weeds that will want to grow in that space, and start working with the soil. We have a friend who is a master gardener, and with her advice and help I think we can probably set up a small but productive garden that can help keep us fed and lend some color to the place as well. Trish is interested in putting in some flower beds, and I'm not opposed to helping her with that.
Summer is coming fast, but this IS Alaska, and there is no question that it will leave just as fast as it comes. That being the case, it's time for me to stop typing and start doing some of the work that should be accomplished today. Not before wishing all of the Moms who follow this blog a very happy Mother's Day.