Monday 24 September 2007

September 24th, 2007 Introducing... The Candies!

As I'm sure some of you have noticed I haven't been posting much lately. No fear - all 'good busy' stuff and I should have some stories in the next few days. :)

In the meantime, YES we have come up with a theme for the Crunchie x Olena babies. In honour of their 'chocolate bar' Daddy - they are all named after candies!!

So, introducing -

Jelly Bean (male) - who will be known as Mr. Bean
Turtle (male)
Chiclet (female)
Skittles (female)
Twizzler (female)
Smartie (female)
Peeps (female)

Pictures (courtesy of Tara Lemieux) can been seen at -

Eyes are just starting to open and all are growing like little weeds! :)


Monday 10 September 2007

September 10th, 2007 Fall Warm-Up Weekend

First off I have to thank Karen and Mark for putting together such an amazing weekend.  We had such a great time!  Zach is actually chomping at the bit to go back to school to tell his classmates all his stories from this weekend.  Everyone was so nice and made this such a memorable time for us we will definitely come up for the next one (although I will not be trying out any short cuts so to speak).   Since many know that I hit a bull on the way up in Montana, we did make it thanks to a rental truck.  And Mark was totally right about my truck not getting touched till after we got back, but today (Saturday) we made it home driving through 6 states in 24 hours and my truck being held together with some good ol' fashioned duct tape for the headlight, bailing wire for the bumper and some chain to keep the hood down, as for the internal parts staying in place I'm too afraid to undo the chain to see.

I don't know where to begin describing the amount of fun we had this weekend which by far is one of the
best weekends I have ever had.  I think Zach puts it best with a very exuberant "AWESOME".   We met so many great people that we definitely hope to see again.  Thank you Karen for letting us to scooter with your dogs, I must admit that was a truly amazing experience.  Zach is still in awe of Nik and I know that isn't going to change.  Down here in So. Cal. my guys are fast but compared to Batdog and Hector it's like comparing turtles to rabbits (obviously my guys are the turtles).  Thanks Colleen and Martin for letting me tag along Monday morning when you ran your team.   I am still getting used to not seeing Rocket, Dew and Trigger, I could never walk past them without saying hi to each one of them.  Also thanks Karen, Colleen and Martin for loaning us your quads to run our team.  Zach also has a big thank you for Mark, he loved driving the quads.  This weekend was so worth the drive from California.  The weather was great the scenery couldn't be beat and everyone just made this weekend fantastic.  I truly don't know how to thank you enough!

Sunday 9 September 2007

September 9th, 2007 Isis's Story

Isis is one of Kara and Grover's superhero kids.

In the spring of 2006 I sold Isis, along with Dare (Smiley x Oreo) to a nice woman in Yellowknife, who came to me with some very good references.

Icey was still young and hadn't been harness broke, but given her pedigree, I had nothing but confidence that she would be a good addition to Jo's team down the road.

Imagine my surprise when many months later Jo contacted me and said they were having problems harness breaking her. The problem had begun when running down some pavement that Jo had to travel on to get to their training area and then got magnified from there. I offered some suggestions and told her to keep in touch with me.

After a number of months and trying everything they could think of, Jo, very sadly, contacted me wishing to return Ice. As I always do, I refunded back Jo's purchase price in full and Jo shipped her back down to Edmonton.

Ice settled back into our kennel routine quite easily and we began a calculated long-term approach to re-schooling her attitudes about running in harness. I knew that we realistically only had one shot to change her mind about being a sled dog.  My goal was to make her reliable enough that I could find her a home on a recreational team. Despite being a Grover/Kara kid, I was convinced she just wasn't a 'special' dog.

So, over the course of last fall, Ice got accustom to being on a leash, a drop chain and eventually living on a stake out chain. This spring I finally felt the time was right and hooked her up with a carefully selected team. She balked a bit, but never really showed any indication that she was going to through a 'feet in the air' temper tantrum like she did in Yellowknife.

I ran her a few times with good results before giving her a few months off. Through out the summer Mark and I both started to become rather enchanted with this little piebald gal. Jo had always maintained that she was an absolute sweetheart in their kennel and we were really seeing that here, but I did begin to look for a new home for her.

I offered her to a few folks, but no one was really taken with her, despite her great pedigree and the fact that I was now insisting that was 'something' about her.

When we started running again in July, Ice was right in there with the rest of the crew. She still balked a bit when we crossed or traveled down our gravel road, but otherwise was doing just great on our runs.

Then in the last few weeks she really began to 'find her feet'. Last week she was roaring down the trail, out performing even her star brother, Wolvie. I decided it was time to up the pressure on her and 4 days ago took her on a run up our driveway, which is all gravel. She didn't miss a beat.

This morning I decided to listen to my gut and put the young lady in lead. She was a STAR.

When we hit the driveway I was curious to see what she would do when she had no other dogs pulling her forward. She balked for a second then looked for ways to run off the gravel on the side of the road, but Dasher was blocking that option for her on the right. She tried to swing to the left but because the rest of the team was on the right side of the road, couldn't reach the side of the road. She hesitated for a half second and then hit her harness hard and got back to work.

Watching her traveling hard and fast down the road, driving solidly into her harness was wonderful. I was so proud of her.

She lead a big, fast 14-dog team for over 5 miles before I hit some trail that was above her leader skills and swapped her out for Tess.

Just in case anyone was wondering - she is no longer for sale.


Saturday 8 September 2007

September 8th, 2007 Fall Warm-Up Weekend

(By Colleen Hovind)
On Friday, September 1, 2007, people, dogs, dog trucks, tents and trailers started arriving at North Wapiti for Karen and Mark's Annual Fall Warm Up Weekend.  A few had already arrived when we pulled in around 5:00 p.m.  With us came 7 of our 11 dogs - all North Wapiti kids.  This year was our third time attending the Fall Warm Up Weekend -  a weekend that we start looking forward to during those hot July/August days.
Before I start with a rather long recap of the weekend, I want to first send a huge thanks to Karen and Mark for hosting the Fall Warm Up Weekend.  Opening your home, yard and trails to a record crowd takes a huge amount of work and patience.  As usual, the weekend went off without a hitch and I know that everyone who attended is very grateful for all that you do to make it happen.  So THANK YOU.    
For the most part, Friday night is spent settling in.  Humans busy themselves setting up camp and tending to the dogs - the dogs are just as busy making sure they have the best sleeping spot on the picket line, which usually involves much digging.
Saturday morning begins the ritual of everyone gathering for a quick coffee and visit between 6:00 and 6:30.  By 6:45 the yard is full of commotion.  Four larger teams of 10+ dogs head out of the yard with Karen's team in lead.  A few minutes behind them, we head out with our team of seven.  One of my favorite sites of the whole run occurs before we even leave the yard.  We pass by the puppy pens on the way out onto the trails and the morning just wouldn't be complete without saying "good morning babies" to the little fur faces that watch intently as we go by.  Too cute.  Being the first run of the year for us we take a shorter route and do not see any other teams until we're back in the yard.  As usual, the trails are beautiful and the smell of Fall is in the air.  Back in the yard, a few people are hooking up one and two dogs to scooters and venture out as well.

Our Team

Our Team
Everyone arrives back in the yard and then it is time to free run puppies.  OMG!!!  Karen tells us that Kluane's litter of four (the Cree litter) is fast and smart enough to do the trail without chasing the quad.  They have done it enough times with Karen that all she has to do is ride behind them and they do the loop on their own.  The trick is to have four bowls of kibble waiting back at their pen when they return.  Sure enough, within a few minutes of them taking off out of the yard with Karen following on the quad, we see four little puppy bodies booking it down the trail and back into the yard heading straight for their pen where we stand calling and shaking a dish of kibble.  Into the pen hop the puppies and the gate is quickly shut while they devour the kibble.  Anyone who hasn't seen Karen free run puppies is in awe of just how fast these little bodies can travel.  A few more visits in the yard while we pick up harnesses and ganglines, then everyone heads up to the house for breakfast.  While running dogs is the primary purpose of the weekend, a close second is humans consuming copious amounts of food.  Breakfast is a virtual buffet of anything you can imagine and everyone is hungry after a good morning run. 
A few more trucks arrive throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, including Maggie, Keisha (spelling?) and Zak and their six dogs from California.  Precisely at 1:00 p.m. a horn sounds and the annual scavenger hunt begins with Mark and Karen laying out the ground rules.  Teams of two and three spend half an hour searching the North Wapiti grounds for numbered golf balls and collecting numerous bits from nature and elsewhere (live bugs, yellow leaves, an item of clothing with "Iditarod" on it, etc.).  Each item on the list is given a point value.  Teams turn in buckets of items then one team member has several tries to shoot pop cans off a log while the other team member goes in the garage where Karen has a jar filled with sand and upwards of 30 small articles.  The goal is to jiggle around the jar and sand to expose the items and identify what you find to Karen.  Once all is done, Karen heads into the house and does the final tally of scores.  We then all gather in the house for the awarding of prizes.  This year, I must say that the prizes were very generous.  With donations from Eagle, Mountain Ridge, and Karen and Mark, every team comes away with a great catch.

Our Team next to Karen's

Sue, her husband and her Malamute
The rest of the afternoon is spent visiting around the campfire while a few people run dogs with scooters and carts.  Supper is a pitch fork fondue which involves a huge vat of oil brought to a dangerously hot temperature.  A few people cook chicken and steak on long stakes but I am one of a few less patient folks and chose to dump several pieces of chicken into a smaller vat that is then submersed into the hot oil.  Everyone brings a potluck side dish or dessert so again we eat very well and there are lots of leftovers that will be around for Sunday supper.
The evening is low key and people mull around their campsites, at the main campfire or in the dog yard visiting woofs.  The schedule of feeding the NW dogs is untouched by the bustle of the weekend and 8:00 p.m. sees a lot of dust flying as the dogs do laps on their stakeout chains waiting for their dish to arrive.  With four or five helpers, the yard is fed in record time with Karen filling dishes and giving directions as to which bowl goes where.  Once all the bowls are picked up we head off to the puppy pens to visit with the Kara's litter of four and Hilda's litter of seven.  Hilda's seven babies (more is better) being the youngest litter gives them the edge of being the most popular (sorry Kara), but there are enough cuddles to go around for everyone.  By 9:00 it is pitch dark, so a few more visits with humans around the yard, then it is off to bed to dream about the events of the day.

Karen, Brook & Martin

Kathy & Brook Carmichael
Through the night it begins to rain lightly but by 6:45 it is down to a drizzle and by the time we are on the trails it has stopped.  Marty and I are sure to have our seven dog team hooked up in time to head out with Karen's team and another two larger teams of 10+ dogs.  With other teams arriving yesterday, there are a few more teams than yesterday morning and they head out on other trails after we have left the yard.  As I sit on the back of the quad and watch our seven (Smiley, Sparky, Blaze, Caly, Doc, Thunder and Charm) make their way down the trail, practicing passing, etc., I am so proud of them.  This is the first year we have run an all NW team and it warms my heart to think of how lucky we are to have these quality dogs in our lives and be running along side Karen's team as well as Mike and Kathy Carmichael's.  Not to think for a moment that we are in the same league as Karen or Mike’s team, but it is sweet nonetheless to be out on the trail with them.  We do a 3.5 mile run, stopping to rest the teams and give them a drink before the other teams head off for another mile or so while we head back down the driveway into the yard.
Sunday breakfast is a feast of Karen's wild blueberry pancakes (with berries from Karen and Mark's property).  Everyone gorges themselves then it's outside to get some two dog teams heading out on scooters.  There are enough takers that we spend the better part of a couple of hours matching up dogs that have less experience with some of Karen's dogs.  It's all a bit of a blur, but I recall a variety of breeds including Australian Shepherds, Alaskan Malamutes, a Samoyed and two Chinook Dogs along with the ever popular Siberians.  Karen goes out on the quad ahead of the scooters and someone is on the back of the quad to encourage the dogs and take photos/laugh at near hits and misses as the driver maneuvers the scooter around the trail.  The rain earlier in the morning has damped the sand enough that the trails aren't as dangerous as I recall from last year.

Our ATV Trip
Later in the afternoon, Marty and I along with friends Sandy Cairns and Mark Dakin from Red Deer, Alberta, take two quads and head out on the trails to sight see.  After not finding the spot we are looking for, we head back to the yard and seek out Karen for directions.  She offers to hop on our quad and away we go with Kathy and Baby Brook Carmichael on their quad.  We find the scenic spot we have seen while out on the trails with dogs other years and oooo and aaaaah at the view.  Karen decides to show us some other beautiful spots in the area and she takes over driving our quad - which should have been the first warning sign.  Basically, she tries to kill us all (not really but my mind does go there for a few seconds) and takes us to an area we have not seen before.  We head down (way down) to a spot in the river that can be crossed with quads then back up (way up)  the other side to a spot where we can overlook the property.  The view is breathtaking, however so is a portion of the ride.  We joke with Karen when we stop, just making sure she hasn't forgotten that we are from the Prairies and not used to hills or heights.  She laughs, but seems just a bit too pleased with herself which keeps me on guard for the rest of the trip.  Baby Brook who will be two years old this winter is a little daredevil and is grinning ear to ear as we make our way along the trails.  It could also be that she was laughing at me who was hanging on for dear life.  In any event, we make it safely back to the yard and it's time for supper.  The evening routine of visiting and feeding/playing with the NW dogs is over before we know it and then it's time to relax by the campfire before turning in for the night.
Monday morning is much like Sunday - overcast and drizzle but it stops just in time to run.  Having run with "the big dogs" yesterday, we watch as the larger teams leave the yard then we head out with our team for a shorter, low key run.  Once we are back, Marty helps Maggie and Keisha from California hook up their six dogs to our quad and the three of them head off onto the trails.  Back at the house for breakfast, everyone enjoys Karen's famous Feta cheese scrambled eggs along with a multitude of muffins, toast, bacon, etc.  Then it’s time to do up the breakfast dishes, pack and load the dogs for the trip home.  As usual, it takes a bit longer than planned to say good bye to everyone - some new acquaintances that we've gotten to know from previous Fall Warm Ups, others we have just met this weekend but feel like we've known each other forever.  A few more laughs, hand shakes and hugs and we are back on our way home to the Prairies.  The dogs and both of us are tired but in the best way.  I spend a lot of the 10 hour ride home, going over the events of the weekend and thanking my lucky stars to have had the opportunity to spend a few days with great people and great dogs on some of the most beautiful trails I know I will ever see.  How could it get any better?
Colleen Hovind

Friday 7 September 2007

September 7th, 2007 Fall Training Run

I love fall!! It is such a wonderful time of year!!!

Last night we changed the sheets on the bed back to flannel – well, upgraded flannel – microfibre sheets. They are so cozy!! The temperature was dropping quickly – down to 5 C as we went to bed - and crawling into those sheets was wonderful. I slept so soundly!!
Mark’s alarm goes off at 4:30 and I don’t even remember him getting up. I did manage to drag myself out of my cocoon around 5:30, when my alarm goes off.
I made coffee, caught up on a few emails, figured out a team for the day and started a load of laundry before Mike stumbled up to the house (yup, he is still here!) at about 6:30. We chatted and generally stalled for a bit before rolling out of the house at 7.
Once out the door there is no more dragging. The dogs know the routine and their excited anticipation of the upcoming run is contagious.
It rained hard overnight and I had to take time to dry off the seat of the quad before moving it up to the dog yard, running out lines and starting to select dogs from the yard.

First Q and Charge – today’s leaders; then Batdog and Hector; super enthusiastic Jinx and Sprite; Xena and chubby little Roary (I swear that dog could live on 4 kibbles per week); followed by handsome Wolvie and most Xcellent X; Herman and obnoxious Nitro; and last but never least, Irving and Boom.

I laid out harnesses and got everyone ‘dressed’.
Q held the line out like a pro while I corrected Charge 400 times for not staying ‘up front’ – leader training can be very tedious. Finally the big nerd got the idea and kept his feet planted while I hooked up the rest of the lot.
Nitro got reprimanded for grabbing X by the tail as I walked him over to the gangline. This is a new hobby of Nitro’s and one that MUST end quickly.
Just as I was hooking up Boom, the last critter for the day, Mike’s team rounded the corner coming up from the bottom of the yard – or Carmichael Meadow, as it is called at this time of year.

The previous night’s rain and the cold temperature (1C) had highlighted all the spider webs in the woods. It was gorgeous, but rather bothersome to think of the all the spiders that represented!
When we finally climbed the hill on the driveway out of the valley a glance over my shoulder revealed nothing. The heavy fog completely enveloped our section of the valley. 
A few neighbors honked as Mike and my teams worked their way along the freshly mowed highway ditch.

The dogs roared down the hill back into the valley. Charge checked out the girls back in the middle of the team while I was unlocking the gate to get us into the grazing lease next door. When I sharply called his name he remembered what he was supposed to be doing.

We whipped along the Riverbank Trail and then over to Beaver’s Gully, where I discovered that the darn beavers dropped a big tree over the trail.
It was not completely detached from the stump, so I couldn’t move it. It was too big to get the quad over and the trail was too tight to turn everyone around unless I REALLY had to. Mike had taken a shorter route home and that meant no backup so I scouted out a path through the trees that would allow me to bump over the fallen tree where it was smaller.
Charge was really not ready to lead us on a bushwhacking expedition, but Q seemed to figure out what I was up to without too much trouble. A few small saplings were sacrificed in the process, but otherwise our detour worked well.

I handed out fish to all, including Kara and Fly, who always show up as soon I start snacking

We did our ‘long’ ‘go around’ loop, scaring a beautiful pilated woodpecker out of the woods, before calling it a morning.

I love fall!


Tuesday 4 September 2007

September 4th, 2007 Fall Warm-Up Weekend (By Jeff deGreeff)

Hi everyone,

I just had to share my experiences of one of the most exhilarating weekends I have had in a while.  Actually, I have had a lot of wonderful working-Samoyed weekends this summer but this one tops it!  Karen Ramstead, a purebred Siberian Iditarod racer, had a fall training warm-up weekend this Labor Day long weekend and she invited people to head up to her place for a fun weekend of food, learning and of course, mushing training!  It was an absolutely wonderful weekend!

I learned so much this weekend and it was great to see so many fantastic teams there with such wonderful mushers!  Karen was an incredible hostess and I have no idea how she can handle 29 people and kids running her dogs - yes she allowed us all to take her Iditarod-class dogs out with a scooter - training with her own teams, entertaining, cooking, 90 additional dogs not including 65 of her own, playing with her puppies (she has three litters on the ground right now) and still staying sane!  She was truly an amazing woman and hostess!  Actually, her husband Mark deserves a lot of credit too since it is very cool how he supports her "habit" so wonderfully with all the work he does with the dogs and all the cooking he did in addition to what Karen did.

There were two definite highlights for me.  The first that I wanted to share was that I had the opportunity to ride an ATV along while Karen worked with her puppy team.  That was an excellent experience.  I was able to watch how she worked with her young puppies, helped them through their problems, put them in situations so that they could work through them and just watch how she interacted with her dogs.  I was amazed at their power and strength, even though it was only a short fall training run, it was still incredible to see them at work - even if they were not Samoyed!

The other highlight was the privilege to run Nakoda with a true Iditarod sled dog!  Karen was kind enough and trustful enough to allow me to hook up Nakoda with one of her dogs, Holly (hopefully I spelled that right).  I have had a lot of fun working with dogs from around our area last winter but it has soured Nakoda a little bit.  Well, this was just a fantastic experience for Nakoda and I think she enjoyed the privilege as much as I did.  I have never, ever seen her run in harness like that before and I am not sure if it was the lack of experience of the dogs that normally run with her, the difference in structure or fitness levels of the Sammies she normally runs with or what but she absolutely flew!!!  It was breathtaking for me!  I went back on my GPS readings this morning and we had readings over 20 mph - maybe normal for a Sibe but pretty good for a Sammy from what I have heard.  I am even more excited by the fact that there were only two dogs pulling the scooter on a soft, sandy trail with lots of moderate hills and I had the brakes on for most of the run!  We ended up doing just under 2 miles with an average speed of about 6 mph including two breaks and a wrong turn.  Throughout the entire run, there were only 3 times that I had to put on the brakes a little more to get Nakoda's tug line tight but then, I had to do it a couple of times for Holly too.  It was just an absolutely awesome experience for Nakoda and me!!!!

As another fun note, it was definitely interesting to have the only Samoyed there out of 155 dogs present.  There were Alaskans, Mal's and Sibe's as well.  I would guess that about 90% were Siberians with about 4 or five Malamutes, my little Nakoda and the rest being Alaskans.  I actually ended up running Nakoda with Sibe's all weekend just to make things fun for her since since that was a major goal of mine for the two of us.  I found it to be a very good match but the real cool thing about this was to be able to observe the difference in how these two breed of dogs is built.  I am always trying to learn and it was fun to see how a Siberian goes from a trot to a lope and then a full run while a Samoyed goes from a trot to a run.  It was also cool to see Nakoda keep up to a loping Siberian while she was still trotting - I hadn't thought that would be possible until I saw it with the two running ahead of me.  Obviously, when Holly or the other Sibe Nakoda ran with the rest of the weekend, picked up the pace, Nakoda would go into a full run but it was pretty cool to see how well matched she was with the Sibes she ran with.

Anyway, hopefully this tempts your ambitions in the future and maybe we'll see some of you out this way next year - so I won't be the only Samoyed owner there!  I saw quite a few large teams there (more than half a dozen dogs in a team) and everyone was absolutely wonderful.  Every single musher I spoke with was very encouraging to me, even though I had and "odd" breed there.  Every single team was great, some still learning but still very good as far as teams I have seen goes.  The gamut of mushers ranged from kids and people just doing it for fun to the professional mushers and all were just as friendly and helpful as the next.  I can't recommend this weekend highly enough as a great kick off to fall training!

I hope all of you have a wonderful fall and have fun working with your Samoyeds!


September 4th, 2007 Fall Warm-Up Weekend

(By Rhonda Surmon)
Hi everyone.
I know I told lots of you that I was going out to my Karen Ramstead's place on the long weekend.  Here are some pictures from her open house.  It was so fun! I even got to ride on the ATV behind the dogs.  I even got to help handle a few...though I'm sure Karen won't be calling me to help with the Iditarod race anytime soon.  :-)  ... those dogs are STRONG when they are excited!!  Anyway, it was very fun!!!  Here are the pictures;